So what’s this all about, anyway?

Take Back Halloween is on a mission: a mission to make the world safe for creative and empowering costumes.

You won’t find costumes for Eleanor of Aquitaine or Hatshepsut in the stores. You won’t find costumes for powerful goddesses like Ishtar or the Morrigan. But you will find them at Take Back Halloween, the only website in the world devoted to showing women how to dress up as famous heroines, geniuses, queens, and goddesses. Without sewing!

Take Back Halloween isn’t a store.

We’re not selling any of this stuff. We’re a resource guide: we come up with the costume designs, explain what you’ll need to pull off the look, and provide links to where you can buy the various components. Our overall approach is about creating great costumes with stuff that is readily available: either already in your closet, on sale at eBay or some other retailer, or in stock at a costume store. See our “how to use this website” page for a quick rundown on how it works.

Plus, we include accurate historical information about every single figure. Thinking about what people wore is an incredibly fun way to learn history.

Despite our name, we’re not just about Halloween.

Since Take Back Halloween was launched in 2010, it has become the leading online resource for women and girls’ DIY historical costuming. People use our site for occasions all year long: Black History Month, Women’s History Month, cultural festivals, school presentations, historical reenactments, and more. Educators even use our site as a novel way to teach history. We get millions of visits from all over the world.

We take seriously our responsibility to provide accurate information and a positive, enlightening experience. When a girl or woman goes online to find out how to dress up as the great queen Nzinga, for example, she finds our site. If she wants to dress up as the mathematician Ada Lovelace, or the flying ace Bessie Coleman, or the feminist Sor Juana, or the pirate Ching Shih, she finds our site. Because the commercial costume industry doesn’t begin to accurately reflect women’s history, many of our DIY designs have been specifically requested or commissioned—such as our design for the Trung Sisters.

Our vision for Halloween

We started as a Halloween site because we love Halloween. We think it’s cool that there’s one day a year when people can dress up as anything they want. What we don’t think is cool is that, increasingly, the only costumes available for women and girls are of the ultra-sexy persuasion. There’s nothing wrong with sexy (for adults), and if you want to go that route, fine. Have fun! We just want there to be other options as well.

Scary costumes are traditional, and that’s great. But there are other things you could do. We have a background in history and theatre, so we think of Halloween as an opportunity to portray a specific individual. For example, you could:

  • Celebrate your heritage. North America is full of people from every single part of the world. But no matter where we’re from, we all have amazing queens, heroines, and goddesses in our cultural backgrounds.
  • Channel the goddess. It’s a great way to explore the female divine—or just wear an awesome costume. (Use care if you’re stepping outside your own heritage.)
  • Be Queen for a Day. To heck with princesses. Be a queen.
  • Honor your personal heroine. Who inspires you? Who fascinates you?
  • Try on some red carpet glamour. Dressing to the nines is fun. When else do you get to wear elbow length gloves and feather boas? Unless you’re a movie star in real life, Halloween is your chance.

In fact, we have more ideas for costumes than we have time to post on this site. We’re adding more costumes all the time.

A note about offensive costumes

We shouldn’t have to say this, but: ethnic stereotype costumes are A Bad Idea. Geisha girl? “Poke-Her-Hotness”? People, that stuff is just not cool.

In putting together our costume resources, we’ve run across some extremely useful items that unfortunately have extremely annoying names. Like “geisha wig.” The wig in question is just the bouffant upsweep hairdo that women in China, Japan, and Korea have worn at various times over the past two thousand years, and it comes in awfully handy if you’re dressing up as, say, Wu Zetian. Yet apparently there is an unwritten rule that any remotely Asian-looking wig for sale in North America has to be labeled a “geisha wig.” Drives us absolutely nuts. We’ve made every effort to avoid products like that, and even spent hours shopping for sites that don’t have gross labeling. But obviously we have no control over what descriptions retailers use, so we apologize for any links that turn creepy.

Who we are

Take Back Halloween is the first venture from the Real History Project, which was conceived in 2010 as a series of projects to popularize knowledge of the past—the real stuff, not just the Dead White Male version of history. It was created by Suzanne Scoggins, a writer and feminist specializing in women’s history.

Contact Suzanne at scoggins.suzanne@gmail.com for more info, or with any questions or comments about the site. Happy costuming!