Fact Check

Top Halloween Costumes for 2009

The top costume choices for Halloween 2009

Published Oct 30, 2006

One of our favorite measures of cultural zeitgeist is the kinds of costumes people choose to wear for Halloween. Although some classic spooky get-ups (e.g., witches, vampires) are perennial favorites, other costumes that predominate in any given year can be heavily influenced by

politics, world events, popular entertainments, and sporting championships. Other factors also heavily influence costume selection, such as the gender and age of the wearer. (Youngsters tend to favor movie, television, and cartoon/comic book characters, and adults generally lean more towards generic, traditional characters and risqué themes.)

One obvious example of how Halloween costume selection reflects cultural trends is the observation that, although pirate costumes have long been favorite Halloween garb, the tremendous success of the Pirates of the Caribbean films propelled buccaneer-styled apparel to the upper reaches of recent "Top Halloween Costume" charts. The series of Spider-Man movies did the same for that comic book character, and the current spate of vampire-themed entertainment has pushed that always popular character type even higher on this year's Halloween costume list. And although masks of political figures were common Halloween garb for adults in 2008 (when the spooky holiday fell just a few days before the 2008 presidential election), such costumes look to be a far less popular choice for 2009:

When it comes to Halloween costumes, vampires, princesses, police officers and pirates are in, while politicians, nurses and Batman are out.

Once again, witches take the top spot for adult costumes. Thanks to popular books, movies and television series, vampire costumes jumped to the number two spot from third last year. Hardest hit this year were nurse costumes, which fell from number five to number 13, and political figures, which didn't even make the list.

"The departure of both nurses and politicians from the top costumes list could be an indication that Americans would like to shelve the health care reform debate — at least for one night — to have a little bipartisan fun," said Tracy Mullin, [National Retail Federation] President and CEO.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) and the consumer market intelligence firm BIGresearch annually survey consumers during the second week of September to find out (among other things) what sorts of costumes children and adults (and their pets!) are planning to wear during the upcoming Halloween festivities. The results for 2009 were as follows:

Top Children's Costumes 2009
1. Princess (generic)
2. Witch
3. Spider-Man
4. Pirate
5. Pumpkin/Jack o' Lantern
6. Vampire
7. Princess (Disney)
8. 'Star Wars' character
9. Tinker Bell
10. Batman

Top Adults' Costumes 2009
1. Witch
2. Vampire
3. Pirate
4. Clown
5. Wench / Tart / Vixen
6. Cat
7. Devil
8. Scary costume/mask (generic)
9. Sports figure
10. Police officer

Top Pets' Costumes 2009
1. Pumpkin / Jack o' Lantern
2. Devil
3. Bowtie / Fancy collar
4. Witch
5. Superdog / Supercat
6. Princess
7. Bat
8. Dog
9. Angel
10. Bee


Last updated:   12 October 2009


    Federowicz, Jeffrey Allen.   "Halloween Costumes Are Hot Items."

    [Pennsylvania] Centre Daily Times.   28 October 2006.

    Goldman, Abigail.   "Halloween Costumes Fit Hollywood Well."

    Los Angeles Times.   27 October 2006.

    Nark, Jason.   "For Adults, Halloween Costumes Get Risque, Rude."

    [New Jersey] Courier-Post.   28 October 2006.

    Petrecca, Laura and Matt Friedman.   "Young Adults Go for Sexy Over Spooky."

    USA Today.   30 October 2006   (p. B3).

    Scott, Megan K.   "The Top Halloween Costumes for Kids, Adults (Even Pets)."

    Hartford Courant.   25 October 2008.

    NRF.   "Princess Continues Her Reign as Top Halloween Costume for Kids."

    Press Release.   26 September 2006.

    NRF.   "Pop Culture, Election Play Role in Americans' Halloween Costume Choices."

    Press Release.   2 October 2008.

    NRF.   "Vampires Move Up Top Costumes List; Nurses, Politicians Drop Off."

    Press Release.   1 October 2009.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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