Confession: A lot of adults like me today wax poetic about how much simpler the ’90s were than today. And maybe they were, but the truth is a lot of that simplicity has to do less with life being simpler in general and more with the fact that we were kids with little to no actual responsibility. But one of the things that gives me the greatest memories is something that is, at its core, pretty simple: the ’90s-kid Halloween costume.
Our costumes weren’t super involved, it’s true, but what they lacked in intricacy they made up for in enthusiasm. From the traditional to the modern, the TV/movie related to the generic, and everything in between, kids of the 1990s knew what was up when it came to masquerading on the greatest day of the year (aside from Christmas, duh).
Here are just a few of my most fondly remembered ’90s kids’ costumes.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was, in my mind, the most popular “boys’” cartoon of the 1990s. Every boy I knew had a favorite turtle; my brother’s was Michelangelo, though I will vouch for Donatello until the day I die. The costume was basically a cheap bodysuit with a plastic mask, but it was adorable – especially when a group of kids would manage to put together a team of all four turtles. I saw a few Splinters and Shredders too, which was epic. Never an April O’Neil, though, sadly. OH, this costume also gave our parents an excuse to order pizza. Because it was to get into character. You know.
If I remember nothing else about 1994, I will remember the infamous Nancy Kerrigan / Tonya Harding knee-clubbing incident. Similarly, in 1996, the Atlanta Summer Olympics, where Kerri Strug famously landed her vault perfectly on a bad ankle to help clinch the gold medal for her team. Both of these events sparked a huge surge in simple leotard-based costumes featuring a little skirt and figure skates slung over our shoulders.
Princess Jasmine / Aladdin
I was seven years old when Aladdin premiered in theaters. The following Halloween, Aladdin and Jasmine were basically the Elsa and Anna of 1993. I begged my mom to let me be Princess Jasmine and she was all, “LOL here’s a purple ‘Arabian Girl’ dress,” which was totally not the same but at least she tried. And to be fair, it did kind of resemble one of Jasmine’s outfits in The Return of Jafar, but alas, 1993 was too early.
Admit it: If you were a kid/preteen in the mid-’90s, you identified with at least one Spice Girl. I was 100% a Baby Spice and like to think now I’m a Ginger/Posh hybrid, but as a kid, I never joined the throngs of other kids who dressed up like the Spice Girls. Maybe I didn’t have enough friends who were into it, but it was fun seeing my peers spread the girl power. Oh, and I did eventually get a group of girls together to dress like them, but it was in 2008, when I turned 23 (I was Baby Spice). Better late than never, I always say.
The furthest my G.I. Joe knowledge goes is those beautiful pre-YouTube PSA parodies from the early 2000s, and that there was a movie at some point featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. But boys my age were super into anything military related, and that included donning the outfit of their favorite G.I. Joe character for Halloween.
Power Rangers were THE costume of 1994. I distinctly remember that it was 1994, because my brother got a Red Ranger costume for Christmas that year and was so annoyed he hadn’t had it in time for Halloween that he wore it for like a week straight to make up for this / get back at my mom. I always wanted to be the Pink Ranger and never got around to it, but I do own this T-shirt now, and that’s sort of the same thing.
I was never a sporty kid aside from watching the Olympics and Nickelodeon’s bevy of athletic game shows like GUTS and Wild and Crazy Kids, so I never really got into this one. But a lot of my classmates did, donning outfits representing both real and fictitious sports teams. I grappled lightly with the idea of becoming an actual cheerleader at some point in middle school, but then remembered how bad my flexibility and balance were and regretted never having dressed up as a cheerleader just to get my fix in somehow.
Furry animal with leotard, fairy wings and/or ballet slippers
I think I’ve been some form of small furry animal for Halloween about six or seven times, at the very least, and many other kids I knew did this kind of thing too. And we could always take it one a step further with some fairy wings or, again, the leotard. I think one year I was a ballerina mouse, and maybe even a fairy cat? I guess my mom didn’t really ask a lot of questions when I requested to Frankenstein a costume together from parts I already owned / she didn’t have to go out and buy. I regret nothing.
(Image via FOX/ABC/iStock/Disney/Nick)