Work-Appropriate Halloween Costumes

Double, double toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble…
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Open, locks,
Whoever knocks.
~ Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1

If you work at a company and in an industry where Halloween is observed with an office costume party, charity masquerade ball or client entertainment event, you don’t want to get yourself or your company into a bubbling cauldron of hot water or cause double trouble by committing a fatal faux pas because of your costume choice.

It’s one thing to get wickedly creative at a party hosted by your bestie, where you’ll be among friends who will understand and forgive your unusual costume choice or momentary lapse in judgment, and quite another to represent yourself and your company, where donning a costume that is tasteful and appropriate is required. Remember, an office Halloween party is all about business.

Situations differ, of course. Just as you will tend to dress more conservatively in a Wall Street or law office, and more flamboyantly in an arts & entertainment workplace, allow the culture of your company to be your guide to your costume. As well, take into consideration the level of formality of the occasion and the dress code indicated on the invitation.

In addition to these guidelines, keep in mind that while you want to express your imagination and flair for costuming and impress your managers and coworkers, you also want to demonstrate your professionalism and ensure that your dignity is intact after the festivities end. A costume will not mask poor behavior.

What Not to Wear

  • Revealing…Both women and men should avoid wearing anything revealing or suggestive. Generally, for women that means don’t come as a Playboy Bunny (I’m dating myself, but in a good way) or wear anything too low cut, short or backless. For men, that means don’t come shirtless or wear pants that are too tight or too loose or a trench coat with the appearance of having no clothing underneath (a male coworker actually attended a company party in this manner – yes it was hilarious, but not advisable in most business environments).
  • Disrespectful...Avoid costumes that are disrespectful of others. This includes ensembles that represent negative stereotypes of individuals or groups, such as women and people with ethnic, social, religious or political affiliations, or people in the news – alive or deceased. It’s fine to honor or memorialize real people in a positive fashion, but be careful not to offend anyone.
  • Uninformed...Take care not to dress as a person, product or icon that is a competitor of your company – or of your clients if they are present. This is another reason to know your company and your clients.
  • Undignified...Think about how you are perceived on the job and don’t play into a situation that could backfire. For example, if you’re a woman you might want to avoid “witch” or “bat” costumes because of the obvious unfortunate stereotypes. If you’re a man you might avoid dressing as a “clown” or “Wolf Man” for the same reason. It’s okay to be funny, as long you observe good taste.

Group Themes

For internal office parties it can be a great morale and team-building project to have a group or whole department come costumed in a theme, such the characters from a popular book, play, movie, animated film, TV show, comic strip and the like. Likewise, a team or department can come as a group of toys, such as Beanie Babies, Cabbage Patch Kids & Friends, Legos, etc.

If your company’s Halloween party involves hosting clients, if appropriate and possible it might be fun to come as your clients’ products, characters from their respective companies’ histories or a mix of icons that represent and celebrate your clients.

Campus Halloween Parties 

It’s often easy to forget that your college campus is not only your home or where your friends live but also where those who are influential in your professional life also work, visit and sometimes live, such as your professors, campus employers, college president and staff members. In addition, college trustees, elected officials, parents, industry dignitaries and other important visitors can appear on your campus at any time. Therefore, the guidelines for tasteful costuming hold true for the college campus just as they do in the corporate workplace.

Be Charitable

A wonderful way to share the fun is to arrange for a group of coworkers or students to visit local charities in costume, such as pediatric and elder care facilities, hospitals, food banks and other facilities to assist in serving meals, passing around refreshments or just visiting. Serving the community in this manner puts a great spin on the idea of treating at Halloween.

Be Wary of Being Scary

By exercising empathy, emotional intelligence, professionalism and good taste you can avoid your participation in a business or school-related Halloween party from scaring your boss, professor or principal or becoming a horror story that is repeated for years to come. So, this Halloween make sure that you’re cheered and not booed!

Until next time,



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