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Costumes are an Experiment in Identity

Costumes are an Experiment in Identity, trying on new roles after 50, Halloween in middle age
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October is always an exciting month.  Autumn’s clean, crisp air and the pattern of the new school year and fresh starts, embedded in us since childhood, give us added energy.

Halloween is part of autumn, and the chance to dress up.  Dressing up isn’t just for kids — you can use Halloween as a way to experiment in how you present yourself and how you want to present yourself.  You can take what feels right and good while wearing a costume and apply it to your life beyond a night of ghosts and chocolate.

Sally Foster of the University at Miracosta and Jim Suler of Rider University have both conducted exercises with students as to what the choice of costume means.  Sometimes they have students pick costumes for each other.

All well and good, but why not take some time to think about a new persona to try on and take charge of the choice yourself?

Why would you want to look like a celebrity or a political figure? Most of them are wearing masks anyway; putting on a piece of plastic to temporarily change your physical appearance will not give you their lives. It’s one thing to role-play however you like in the intimacy of your own home, but when you step outside, why not try something positive?

Positive doesn’t have to mean light and fluffy.  There’s nothing wrong with trying on the mantle of a darker character to see what it feels like to walk around in someone else’s skin.

It’s what good actors do when they climb into a role.  It’s what good writers do when they create complex, interesting characters.  They temporarily become someone else. It’s good for everyone, at one point or another, to step out of one’s norm, one’s comfort zone, and be someone else. It’s a chance to take your perceptions of yourself, or even what you think are other people’s perceptions, and turn them inside out.

Questions to ask yourself:

–What qualities do I wish I had more of in my life?  How do specific clothing choices project those qualities?  (i.e., motorcycle boots, leather pants, diaphanous dresses, etc.).

–What facet of my personality that I keep hidden do I think it would be fun to publicly explore?

–If I could step completely outside myself and be someone completely different, what qualities would that person have?

After you spend time in that other character’s skin, ask yourself what felt good and right about that experience.  Is there anything you learned/felt/experienced that you can apply to your life?  A more confident character can help you set healthy boundaries; a gentler character can teach you a type of non-aggressive strength.

Use this holiday as a time to play and explore your hidden facets!


–Devon Ellington is a full-time writer, publishing under half a dozen names in fiction and non-fiction, providing writing and editing services to an international client base.  Find her at and



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