Nov 29, 2010
Dress-up Deja vu
Abby Heugel, Managing Editor

A first look at what everyone will be wearing in 2011

I know it still feels too soon to talk about next Halloween, but the good news is that many of the classics from last year- and even 25 years ago – will still be making the rounds in 2011.

All those Alice in Wonderland characters, superheroes and (the perennial) princesses are expected to remain strong categories in the year ahead. The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2010 Top Costumes survey found that nearly 120 million children, adults and pets were expected to dress up for Halloween this year. Of those 120 million, an estimated 4.3 million children were planning on dressing as a princess. In fact, princess costumes have topped NRF’s children’s top costume list for six consecutive years.

With the release of movies such as Kung Fu Panda 2, Cars 2 and Smurfs, expect to see these characters reassert themselves into the media mix – Princess Smurf, perhaps?
When it comes to adults, pop culture and Hollywood still exert a strong influence on costume choice. Whether looking for the licensed version or a generic counterpart, witches, vampires and pirates topped the NRF’s top adult costume list, due in large part to the popularity of movies like the “Twilight” series and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Movies such as “Scream 4” and a remake of “Fright Night” hitting the big screen in 2011 will make scary a fun costume choice again, while a barrage of superhero films might just inspire a powerful product push in that direction.

Current Classics
But you don’t necessarily have to look forward to find out what costumes will be hot, as taking a look back might prove just as valuable. Many of the characters and icons of the ’80s and ’90s are making a resurgence in 2011, meaning what was once old is now new again.

As Lisa Griffin of Leg Avenue noted, there’s a built-in audience hungry for nostalgia and movies will continue to feed that hunger. With the 25th anniversary re-release of movie and TV show DVD’s and the new trend of ’80s themed movies – including The A-Team, Karate Kid and The Smurfs – these iconic characters are and will be literally everywhere.

“The ’80s were a decade of creativity,” Griffin said. “The movies were fun like ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Flashdance,’ the music was the likes of Wham and Madonna and clothing styles were unique and creative with bright neon colors. Never before has a decade been so completely identifiable by its pop culture and consumers love the warm and fuzzy feeling of nostalgia.”

Howard Beige of Rubie’s Costume Co. said that the appeal to consumers is what’s hot, topical and being promoted by Hollywood – Star Wars, Batman, Strawberry Shortcake, Harry Potter and Mario & Luigi, etc.

“The new Strawberry Shortcake TV show and toy line is making Strawberry Shortcake products hot again,” Beige said, “while the anticipation and build-up to the Smurf movie is making those characters popular with both today’s kids and their parents.”

“From Care Bears to Strawberry Shortcake and Smurfs, everything has already ‘come back,'” agreed Gary Schneider of Rasta Imposta. “I think that we will continue to see the shift towards retro-based properties – things that today’s parents grew up with.”

Schneider added that to that effect, they’ve seen success with their Gumby costume and Fraggle Rock characters over the past two years. They think bringing back the Peanuts characters to Halloween falls into the category of bringing today’s parents back to a simpler time and helps them recall their own childhoods.

“Parents today want to share their own childhood memories with their kids,” Schneider said. “A dad and child dressed as Charlie Brown and Snoopy makes for a great family costume theme. I think parents are looking for any properties that bridge the gap and bring them closer to their kids.”

Schneider added that more and more adults are dressing up and going to parties and that when adults dress up, they tend to do something in groups or pairs. Entering a party like a ’70 or ’80s TV show theme or character is always sure to get a laugh.

“Adults are the biggest spenders of Halloween merchandise, not teenagers or children,” said Bridget Silvestri of Ellie Shoes. “The adults today that were kids and teens growing up in the ’80s and ’90s have cash now to spend and are having fun reliving their ‘youth’ by dressing up in these nostalgic themes.”

Show and Sell
To capitalize on the marketing blitz being done by the studio’s to promote the release of DVD’s and the ’80s themed movies, Griffin suggests having a good mix of the decade themed costumes and accessories. Several of these movies and TV shows have multiple characters, making it a good opportunity promote costumes for groups.

“The easiest way to promote and display these costumes is to have the staff wear them in the store during the Halloween season,” Griffin said. “Group themes look incredible in the store and inspire shoppers. Creating a ‘Movie and TV Show’ section in stores is also a good way to promote the costumes.”

Beige added that making boutiques and feature areas for the most popular Halloween characters of the season is also an effective technique and helps retailers stay up-to-date with what’s hot.

“We stay up to date with classic favorites by doing two things when it comes to generic costumes such as witches, vampires, pirates, etc.,” Beige said. “We re-design these key characters every two to three years to make sure we are using the fabrics and trims that the top designers are currently being used in the fashion industry. Second, we re-design and update many of our classic licensed favorites like Batman, Star Wars, Strawberry Shortcake and Looney Tunes to appeal to today’s fashion conscious consumer.”

“The ’80s are continuing to inspire fashion designers on the runway and it’s showing in current fashion today,” agreed Silvestri. “As long as it’s being referenced, there is going to be an interest because it’s current again.”

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