You might think the festival that is all about a plot to blow up parliament would be a surefire hit in an autumn steeped in backstabbing and skulduggery at Westminster, but Bonfire Night lost the pop cultural arms race to Halloween years ago. Halloween is huge. What was once a cobwebby half-term afterthought has reinvented itself. Olde-world graveyards and broomsticks have been ditched in favour of Instagrammable nail art and carefully curated pumpkin stalls.

There are lots of reasons why Halloween is a really bad idea. It is the demon enabler of the evil sugar industry. It is an environmental disaster zone of disposable plastic tat – the charity Hubbub recently estimated that throwaway costumes and accessories generate polluting oil-based plastic equivalent to 83m plastic bottles. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, every year it completely spoils an entire week of Strictly Come Dancing with green body paint and coloured contact lenses. Yet, in the end, none of this matters, because Halloween is supposed to be nasty. The worse it gets, the better. Deal with it, because it is not going away.

Halloween is scary, funny and probably bad for you. It is hypersexualised and narcissistic and all about how good you look. It is restless, always on the prowl for the most up-to-date joke, the newest hot take, the most zeitgeisty meme. In contrast to Christmas and Easter, which are convened around wholesome, home-cooked family feasts, Halloween catering is all about the sweets and/or alcohol, depending on your age bracket. It rewards the skills of being good at putting on makeup, overthinking pop culture and having an encyclopedic knowledge of internet memes. And it looks great in photos. It is, in other words, the most 2019 party it is possible to imagine.

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While impressing your friends with your fabulous Christmas party dress is still cute, in a retro, early-00s-Richard-Curtis-movie kind of a way, it is your Halloween look that now wins the most points. Halloween is like the Met Gala, but everyone is invited. It requires wit as well as showmanship, gore as well as glamour. And it has to be rethought every year – sustainability red flag here, as discussed, but all the more reason to aim a bit higher than whatever crudely styled, statically charged tat you can get next-day-delivered on Amazon Prime. Read on for the looks that will make the cut this Halloween.


Trump wig and a cycling helmet: easy Boris.

Trump wig and a cycling helmet: easy Boris. Composite: Guardian Design; Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images; Karl Nesh/Alamy

The 31 October deadline will not come to pass, but the Halloween timing the PM repeated at every opportunity has fused the longest-running political horror show with the festival of terror and absurdity. Johnson – this year’s pop culture baddie – is the obvious look; just rough up the Donald Trump wig from Halloween two years ago and add a bike helmet. But the Tim Burton vibes of Jacob Rees-Mogg also have potential. Maximum points to the person who figures out how to dress up as the Irish backstop. I have been working on a plan involving an Irish flag with a hard border, but I would be lying if I said I could explain it.


Wagatha Christie: Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy.

Wagatha Christie: Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy. Composite: Guardian Design; Ian Gavan/Dave Benett/Getty Images

“Avocado” was the word of the first half of this decade and “surreal” has been the word of the second half, a term that came into mainstream culture as politics became more and more absurd both here and in the US. Quirkily cartoonish takes on modern life are very Halloween 2019. Upcycle the papier mache art project that Year 3 made when they read James and the Giant Peach and combine with a model of the White House for a Dali-esque impeachment costume. Or team giant Chanel earrings, bronzer and false eyelashes with a Sherlock Holmes costume for a Coleen Rooney/Wagatha Christie look.

Peak narcissism

Justin Timberlake as a microphone and Jessica Biel (front centre) dressed as Timberlake at a Halloween party in LA this month.

Justin Timberlake as a microphone and Jessica Biel (front centre) dressed as Timberlake at a Halloween party in LA this month. Composite: Guardian Design; Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Casamigos

No need for any of that goodwill-to-all-mankind, better-to-give-than-to-receive nonsense that you get at Christmas. Halloween is all about you. However, it is no longer socially acceptable to add “sexy” to a noun at random. A witch in a corset, a nurse in suspenders? Babes, the 20th century called – it needs its dressing-up box back. Instead, recruit a photogenic friend or family member and have them dress up as you. The Kardashian clan are, as ever, ahead of the curve here: three days before the date itself, one-year-old Stormi Webster, daughter of Kylie Jenner, was being proclaimed on social media as the “winner” of Halloween thanks to a bespoke outfit recreating her mum’s lilac feathered Versace Met Gala gown. Jessica Biel dressing as her husband Justin Timberlake (the ‘NSync era version) also podiums here. File under: because internet.


Gin and a sin: Andrew Scott as Fleabag’s Hot Priest.

Gin and a sin: Andrew Scott as Fleabag’s Hot Priest. Composite: Guardian Design; BBC/Two Brothers/Luke Varley; Alamy Stock Photo

It is like virtue-signalling, but without morals, and it is major. Obviously you have flawless taste, so this is your time to shine. Be the Hot Priest from Fleabag. (Also: so easy. Don’t forget the can of G&T.) Or pay homage to Succession: is there anything scarier than Logan in a shawl-collar cable knit? Note: you can’t do Stranger Things – that was old last year.

Karl and Choupette

Imitation as flattery: Lane Cheek and Nina Dobrev, Lisa Rinna and Josh Duhamel and Fergie.

Imitation as flattery: Lane Cheek and Nina Dobrev, Lisa Rinna and Josh Duhamel and Fergie. Composite: Guardian Design; Instagram/nina; BG027/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images; Amy Graves/Getty Images

The late Karl Lagerfeld and his beloved kitten are the Gomez and Morticia of the 2019 Halloween circuit. For Karl, dust your hair with talcum powder, flip up the collar of your stiffest white shirt and pin in place with a fancy brooch. If you don’t have a brooch, one of those pearl hairclips that are everywhere and a couple of safety pins will do the trick. Add black shades, fingerless gloves, a fan and a can of Diet Coke. For Choupette, white cat ears and a mohair jumper should do it. If you are keen to show off your abs, there is always J-Lo in that green dress on the Versace catwalk. Or for insider fashion lolz, raid secondhand stores for a tweed suit and a boater hat and channel the gatecrasher who stormed the Chanel runway at Paris fashion week this month.



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