Halloween isn’t just about kids and candy anymore. More employers are embracing holiday parties, including Halloween dress-up events, as a way to promote employee morale, teamwork, and interdepartmental cooperation. However, the costume you’d wear to a friend’s Halloween party or a bash at a bar may be different than what you should wear to the office.
Employers should lay down ground rules beforehand when it comes to costumes, said Michael D. Karpeles, head of the labor and employment group at Goldberg Kohn, a Chicago-based law firm.
“It’s OK to allow people to dress up, but I think that companies should let their employees know that certain types of costumes are not appropriate — if they’re especially revealing, for example,” he said.
How to Choose a Work-Appropriate Costume
Some things to consider when choosing a costume to wear to work are:
- Comfort If you’re going to be wearing it for 8+ hours, you definitely want your costume to be comfortable. Will it be too hot or too cool to wear all day? Can you sit at your desk with the costume on?
- Makeup or Mask? Experiment with makeup beforehand if you’re planning to wear it. Some costume makeup can get irritating after a few hours. If you plan to wear a mask while working, make sure you can see — and breathe!
- Effect Avoid disturbing, horror costumes or those with religious themes that might be offensive to your coworkers. And remember, sexual harassment policies are still in effect at work events.
There’s not much time left ‘til Halloween, so here are a few quick and easy costumes that you can probably create with what you already have on hand. One trip to a costume shop can complete your ensemble if necessary:
- Housewife Wear a nightgown, bathrobe and big slippers, and curlers in your hair while toting a stereotypical item like a box of bon-bons or a dustmop. You can even wear white or green make-up to simulate cold cream or a facial.
- Gypsy or Fortune Teller Wear any flowing skirt, a bright non-matching shirt, a dozen brightly covered bangle bracelets and a scarf or two. Carry a crystal ball or a magic 8-ball.
- Chef/cook If you’ve got an apron, a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon, just add a wig or a few accessories to become your favorite TV chef.
- Biker A leather jacket, black jeans, boots and a bandana are all that’s really needed for this look. A plaid shirt with the sleeves ripped off and/or a Harley-Davidson T-shirt can add authenticity.
If your workplace is casual and allows for more creativity, you might try:
- Brain Donor: Wear a hospital gown or bathrobe, draw black circles under your eyes and wrap your head in gauze. Fill a clear jar with a small amount of water and some cauliflower. On the front of the jar or the front of your gown put a big label that says “Brain Donor.”
- Nudist on Strike: Probably the easiest costume to put together on short notice. Wear whatever you want and carry a picket sign that says, “Nudist on Strike.”
- Attack Dog Trainer: Take a stuffed dog and sew it to the arm of a long-sleeved shirt so it looks like it is biting you. Wear a name tag (“Jim’s Attack Dog School). Add fake blood for fun!
- Chick Magnet: Attach Barbie dolls or other inexpensive dolls (dressed, please!) all over yourself.
Group costumes can be a fun way to bring a department together. Try getting everyone to dress as characters from a popular TV show, like Mad Men, or movie, like Harry Potter. If your usual dress code is business casual, it might be fun to dress in dark suits and accessorize with sunglasses, a la the Blues Brothers or the Men in Black, or add badges or earpieces to be FBI or Secret Service agents.