October 27, 2014
How 'Star Wars' Costumes Changed Halloween Forever

If you are old enough to remember Halloween before Star Wars costumes then you know that George Lucas changed the spooky holiday forever. Before the iconic space saga, kids wore the typical outfits to go trick-or-treating, but after the May of 1977, everything was different, including Halloween costumes.

For millions of kids, having the coolest Star Wars costume was a big deal in 1977. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, and Chewbacca changed Halloween forever.

After the big blockbuster broke records in movie theaters around the world, retailers scrambled to satisfy the unexpected demand for Star Wars costumes, which caught them entirely by surprise. A business owner in Brooklyn, by the name of Ben Cooper, was one of the first that started selling the much sought after costumes.

He had been successful with Planet of the Apes, so they decided to give the new Star Wars costumes a try. It worked and while the first versions were not comfortable and were probably built with materials we would consider toxic today, they looked really cool.

Even though Cooper was right, he couldn't have guessed how popular these new Star Wars costumes would become that first Halloween in 1977. They were flying off the shelves and anybody who had them didn't keep them for long. All kids wanted that year was to dress up in one of the characters they had seen on their big screens for the first time ever.

That year there was a shortage of Star Wars costumes for the biggest dress up holiday of the year, Halloween. The situation was so bad that even the AP ran a piece about the situation in the Seattle market.

"Richard Nixon is in short supply and there's more demand than supply for Adolf Hitler, but real stars of the Halloween costume rush are Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and C3PO."

"Retailers here say they just can't get enough facsimiles of the characters from the hit movie Star Wars. Even R2D2, the waist-high, trash-can shaped robot is selling out."

Similar articles were published all over the country and stores claimed they were selling out more Star Wars costumes than pumpkins that Halloween. Stores were also experiencing a shortage because their orders were being shipped to other areas.

A situation such as this would never happen in today's world, when studios' PR machines are ready for everything imaginable after a release such as Star Wars. But kids were not deterred in the face of the Star Wars costume shortage in 1977. Many took matters into their own hands and made their own outfits.

That historic year girls wanted to be Princess Leia, with her white dress and unusual side buns. The boys had more choices with Luke, Han, and the androids. Darth Vader was and continues to be one of the most popular characters kids wanted to dress up as. Almost 40 years after the first Star Wars movie came out, these costumes are classics and will be worn by many kids this and in many Halloweens to come.

Will you or your kids dress up in a Star Wars costume this Halloween?

[Image via Lucasfilm]