As the Halloween season approaches, consumers across America are gearing up to spend an estimated $4.1 billion on costumes, according to the National Retail Federation. But for those who work at Halloween shops and help run themed events, it’s less about profits and more about helping customers embark on a transformative journey for a day — or possibly longer.
“What makes it special for me is that [I’m] helping people get into their personas, into a character that they enjoy, and not only doing it for Halloween, [but] they also feel that they can enjoy that year round without any judgment or criticism from others,” said Demetrius Mirtia, 32, of Chicago. “I would like for more people to embrace getting into a character that they enjoy, whether it be from a TV show, a movie, a cartoon or a video game, and actually get to express yourself, no matter how old you are.”
For seasonal employee Ellie Lopez, 23, of Chicago, it’s exciting to be someone else, even if it’s just for a day. “I have four costumes,” she said. “I like dressing up as my favorite characters.”
But some workers don’t limit themselves to wearing costumes on Halloween. They embrace the opportunity to transform themselves daily, using their attire for creative expression and professional advancement.
“As I started getting older, I created costumes out of whatever I had, and then that developed me into a part-time cosplayer, which I actually do professionally,” said Riot Sanchez, 27, of Chicago. “It just kind of took over my life to the point where I celebrate outside of Halloween.”
After Halloween passes, those whose work revolves around the holiday sometimes find themselves experiencing a sense of disappointment.
“I love interacting with the kids and seeing families harvest memories and bring Halloween traditions to life,” said Jake Stalec, 19, an employee at the Pumpkin Fest at Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm in Crest Hill, Illinois. “I like setting up for it, and taking it down is kind of depressing.”
Additional reporting by Zayden German and Greer Stewart.