Nostalgia fuels hype for adult Barbie costumes, fashion design expert says
October 25, 2023
This Halloween is expected to look a lot like Barbie’s Dreamland.
The widely successful summer film’s stars Barbie and Ken have found their way onto the top Halloween costume lists for this year. In fact, social media has even dubbed the holiday #Barbieween.
Pop culture has long inspired fashion, including Halloween costumes, said Dina Smith-Glaviana, a Virginia Tech assistant professor of fashion merchandising and design.
A rise in the popularity of cult media fan culture and cosplay, wherein fans dress up as their favorite characters, contributes to this trend of Halloween drawing on pop culture.
“A huge element is fanship — more often referred to as fandom — where people identify with a character or series or simply just love it,” she said. “With the popularity of the film, we should expect more fans to want to dress up like Barbie and Ken. With the mainstreaming of fandom in recent years, it’s more socially acceptable for adult consumers to express their affinity or affect for films and television openly.”
This Halloween also is a chance for some adults to relive their past.
“The Barbie film carries with it loads of nostalgia, even featuring costumes based on the designs worn by actual Barbies released, starting with the release of the original Barbie and including Barbie and Ken’s within the last 30 years,” said Smith-Glaviana. “I am not surprised that adult consumers embrace Halloween costumes that embody nostalgia and recall their childhoods.”
Dina Smith-Glaviana is an assistant professor of fashion merchandising and design and the director of the Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection.
Her research interests include dress and popular culture, subcultural dress, and reenactment and historic dress. She has published her research on reenactment dress and historically inspired dress in journal articles, one of which was republished in a textbook as a book chapter. Her most recent scholarship focuses on Female Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans’ dress practices and fashion choices.
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