What Not To Wear To Work on Halloween

What will you be this Halloween? It may seem an odd question for anyone over the age of 12, but a growing number of workers from across the country are celebrating October 31 by dressing up. In fact, Shop.com recently released a survey that showed that 25% of adults plan to dress up, and 20% plan to trick-or-treat for themselves!

Not surprisingly, many go all out, transforming their workplaces to veritable haunted houses or candy factories. Many companies allow parents to bring children to trick-or-treat in their offices. Malls across the country host Halloween events, and mall employees are encouraged to dress the part.

But not all Halloween costumes are created equal, and if you plan to dress up for Halloween at work, it’s important to carefully consider your attire. To keep the peace and ensure a successful, productive holiday, here are a few categories of costumes you should probably avoid:

Thinly Disguised Casual Wear. It’s not really a costume to just throw on sweats, jeans, shorts, or other super-casual non-dress-code clothing in lieu of your professional norm. Even if you try to cop out saying you’re dressed up as a bum, urban cowboy or yourself on vacation, your employer likely won’t appreciate the joke. This attitude of  minimal effort can be seen as insubordinate rather than participatory. If you’re going to dress up, give it an honest shot.

The Sexy Version. If you want to wear a sexy costume, reserve it for your post-work parties. Even though dressing up for Halloween at work is an escape form the norm, you should still respect your dress code guidelines and not reveal too much.

Blood and Guts. Many people associate Halloween with the scary side of life, but keep the gore to a minimum when it comes to what you’ll wear to work. Remember, people have to interact with you, so don’t wear something that will cause discomfort when you enter the room. To keep your costume from being outrageously gory, wait to add the extra blood factor until you’ve clocked out.

The Political Statement. There are a lot of political satire-based costumes out there, but work isn’t typically the place to showcase your political ideology. Just as you should respect people you work with in what you choose to speak about at work, pick a costume with respect for other people in mind.

If you plan to dress up at work for Halloween, keep these things in mind as you choose your outfit. Remember, it may be a holiday, but what you do and how you present yourself will likely be remembered throughout the year. So, feel free to enjoy the lighthearted, fun freedom of dressing up, but keep your best professional foot forward.

Do you have any examples of Halloween costumes gone wrong at work? Does your workplace have Halloween traditions you’d like to share? Let us know what you think in the comments below, or vote in our online poll. 


  1. The accounting guy

    Our company has an annual Holloween event. Employees are encouraged to dress-up and we have a costum judging event with prizes and everything. A great time is had by all. People actually look forward the the next year. It’s a great company spirit builder.

  2. Bonnie Ann

    Many of our employees go all out for Halloween. They show up in some pretty outrageous stuff. I try for something I can add to my work clothes & remove quickly if I need to suddenly be in professional attire. One year, I had bat wings & ears, another time I was Red Riding Hood. Our HR officer actually complimented my smart choices for work appropriate customes.

  3. David Zimmerman

    In re: Thinly Disguised Casual Wear
    “…your employer likely won’t appreciate the joke.”
    Is this just a guess, or is there evidence to support this assertion? I’d be interested in hearing that really, really good reason why dressing casually even one day a year is too much to ask for.

  4. Pingback: Use Halloween for Team Building and Getting Noticed at Work | Movin' On Up

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