Halloween is just hours away, and you may be wondering whether you should wear the costume you’ve been planning for months to the office tomorrow, or wait for 5 p.m.
“Costumes have become a lot more culturally acceptable and available in the last 10 years,” says Chicago Costume Company general manager Courtland Hickey.
The Chicago Costume Company has been making costumes for theaters, trick-or-treaters and corporate events for 40 years, and Hickey has been on both sides of workplace costumes — he’s helped customers find the perfect look and laid out rules for his creative employees as well.
Here’s his advice for what to consider as you assemble a workplace-ready costume:
1. Make sure your office actually encourages dressing up
The ultimate embarrassment would be to show up in an elaborate costume to find that your office does not celebrate Halloween. Before putting any time or energy into a costume, Hickey says to check to make sure that your office has a culture of dressing up. If you’re new to the team, you can also ask what other co-workers are planning to be for Halloween to match their level of costume.
Once you have the green light to dress up, make sure that you’re able to perform the duties of your job in your costume. “Something I tell my employees is that you have to be able to work in it,” says Hickey. “You can’t wear the costume if it keeps you from doing what you need to do.”
If you work in a role that’s client-facing, double-check what meetings you may have that day, and plan accordingly. Your colleagues may be fine with your costume, but consider how it will read to an international client who you video conference with once a week.
2. Make sure you’re “SFW”
Wearing a “safe for work” costume should be top of mind. Costumes that are controversial or political, or that make fun of someone in your office, are absolutely off-limits.
The same goes for costumes that are sexy or provocative — even if you have a casual office or a tight-knit team, err on the side of caution.
3. Consider comfort
The typical workday is eight hours long, probably longer than most people would wear a Halloween costume out trick-or-treating or to a party.
Think about how your costume will feel all day. How will a full face of make-up weather your morning commute? Do you want to wear your costume all day, or bring a change of clothes? If you work in an office where you’re sitting at a desk most of the day, how does your costume look from the desk up? Can you answer the phone in a mask, or should you leave that at home?
Beyond looking appropriate and being able to do your job, you should be comfortable in your costume, Hickey says. If it’s going to hinder your comfort all day, it may be best to reconsider.
4. Focus on creativity
Putting together a creative costume is not only enjoyable but could have other benefits at work. One study showed that people who were able to wear Halloween costumes at work were happier than those who didn’t.
A clever Halloween costume could help you professionally, Hickey says. “It’s a way to possibly impress your boss.”
If you know your boss is a huge Star Wars fan and you come to work in your best Darth Vader that could earn you some extra points. Ultimately, a clever, appropriate Halloween costume can help you get to know your coworkers better. “You can learn that you have more shared interests,” says Hickey.