My childhood Halloween costumes fell into two categories: what we had around the house + makeup, and Ben Cooper Halloween costumes. Of course we always wanted the Ben Cooper costumes even though they looked ridiculous and the homemade ones came out better, as you’ll see in the photos my mom provided for me to use in this article. In the following paragraphs I’m going to cover some of the costumes I wore consisting of Paas Halloween Makeup and also some of the Ben Cooper ones I remember.
Paas Halloween Makeup
In the 1980s and early 1990s Paas was the standard Halloween makeup available everywhere for purchase. Paas is of course best known as the name in Easter egg decorating, and its website and Wikipedia don’t even mention that they once sold makeup as well. Therefore, my best guess is that sometime in the early 80s a Paas executive figured out that a child’s face is really nothing more than a big egg, so why not toss some color on them as well? If you never experienced the makeup version of Paas, I can tell you that the application process for the makeup did not involve tossing a capsule in water and then dunking a kid’s head underwater with a little metal loop. It’s too bad because this is similar enough in concept to bobbing for apples that I feel like Paas could have done something with this.
Some of our best Halloween looks came as a result of Paas Halloween Makeup, such as me as a mummy below. I especially like this one because it seems like the kit was based on the Dust Brain Madball.
Ben Cooper Costumes
Ben Cooper was THE name in Halloween costumes in the 1970s and 1980s. This is solely because the company had the license for everything; the look of the actual costumes ranged from ridiculous to ghastly. Obviously it was all we really wanted to wear for Halloween. Ben Cooper, Inc. was around forever. The company began producing costumes in the late 1930s and almost immediately made a name for itself by acquiring the license for Walt Disney properties.
As you can see from the above, the basic concept for a Ben Cooper costume remained unchanged over time. It consisted of a plastic mask with an elastic band stapled to it to keep it affixed to a child’s head and a vinyl suit. Instead of depicting something that actually approximated whatever outfit the character you were trying to be actually wore, Ben Cooper’s thing was to repeat the image of the character on the vinyl suit. If you’re dressing as Batman, why would you want the Bat symbol on your chest when you could have another profile of Batman’s head instead? The more times you can cram the character’s head onto your body, the more people will recognize who you’re supposed to be. The costumes were terrible, the elastic broke and stung your ears and would be replaced with rubber bands, which would then break and sting your ears some more, and we loved them. Unfortunately my mom couldn’t located any images of us in the Ben Cooper masterpieces, but there are a couple I vividly remember owning.
Everything I just said about the choices Ben Cooper made with costumes, immediately negated by the first one I owned. Unlike most, He-Man actually tried to approximate He-Man. Good for them, and good for me because I loved the hell out of He-Man as a child. I followed Prince Adam’s adventures every Saturday and acted out further adventures with the many Masters of the Universe toys I owned. I jumped at the opportunity to actually be He-Man. The only thing missing from the above ensemble was the pair of sweatpants to be worn underneath the vinyl costume. In the 1980s October in Ohio actually felt like October, which meant that whatever you decided to be was also going to involve sweats.
I don’t remember if it was me or one of my sisters who wore this Smurfs costume. I’m leaning towards me because it’s not the female Smurf and when you’re 5 you care about stuff like that, but there’s also a good chance more than one of us wore it in subsequent years. When there’s three kids to outfit you want to get as much out of a costume as you can. I obviously watched The Smurfs but I don’t have any particularly strong feelings one way or the other about the cartoon, like I did with He-Man. I do want to thank Ben Cooper for not making me a liar two costumes in a row. The company really went the extra mile in making this un-Smurflike when it could have been technically accurate with white pants and a blue midsection. Instead we get a mildly psychedelic tableau and one of the Smurfs is even playing a horn. That’s how people know you’re a Smurf, when you contain multiples.
What were some of your more memorable Halloween costumes? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.
Get ready for Halloween by checking out the Handbook for the Recently Deceased, available below.
I do remember the HeMan costume, & how excited you were to wear it. I like to think Halloween & trick or treating was fun for you three growing up. I loved that you got to go out in Grandma Kay’s neighborhood where I did. I don’t think it’s the same for Sarah’s kids😢