Announcing our 2020 Costume Contest!

UPDATE 10/26/2020: The deadline for entering the contest has been extended to November 15! Due to real-life circumstances, we’re going to have to delay the judging by about two weeks, so we’re also extending the deadline to enter. We’ll plan to get the prizes awarded the week of Thanksgiving. Thanks for understanding!

After a one-year hiatus, the contest is back! We took last year off because we’re in the process of creating a new website and re-branding (see here). We thought we’d be ready in 2020, but then COVID-19 happened. So the re-launch is now tentatively planned for 2021.

In the meantime, we asked our community if people wanted to go ahead and have a contest this year, in the midst of all this craziness. Everybody said YES! So here we go — with a few new prizes to capture the spirit of the times.

And just as we promised last year, you can definitely enter your 2019 costume as well. In fact, you can enter up to six costumes from the past three years.

[Edited to add because people asked: We don’t impose any rules that you have to personally construct some or all of your costume. You are free to use pre-existing garments and store-bought items. We’re just interested in the final effect.]

Send your photos to, and we’ll upload all the entries to our 2020 Costume Contest Album on our Facebook page. The deadline for submissions is 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, November 1 November 15, 2020.

This year we have 12 prize categories spread over three divisions:

Division I: Category Costumes

This is our traditional division, the one we’ve had since our very first contest. As ever, we’re looking for costumes that fit into our own costume categories here on the website. That means a goddess or mythological figure, a great queen, a notable historical person, or a glamorous star. These should be specific people, not generic costumes.

Best Goddess or Mythological Figure Costume

Best Queen Costume

Best Notable Woman Costume

Best Glamour Grrl Costume

Best Realization of a Take Back Halloween Design (this prize is about faithfully recreating one of our specific designs here on the website)

Division II: Masquerade

We added this division to our contest in 2017. With these categories, there‚Äôs no requirement that you embody a real person or specific mythological figure. You can just recreate a historical artifact, wear period clothing, or dress up as a character from fiction. This year we’ve tweaked the rules for Fictional Characters and Sci-Fi/Fantasy to try to allow for the kinds of costumes people seem to really enjoy doing.

Historical Recreation: This is for costumes that are based on an actual garment, design, statue, painting, photograph, or illustration. The costume you’re copying or recreating should date from no later than 1970.

Period Costume: This is for costumes that look as if they date from a certain period of history (though it’s fine if they’re made using modern materials and techniques). Tudor England, Heian period Japan, Mughal India, Viking Age Scandinavia, and the American Civil War are just a few examples of costume periods. The time period should be no later than 1970.

Fictional Characters: This category is for fictional characters from literature, art, film, or other media, but it can also be a fictional character you have invented yourself. The costume can be from any time period, but it should be distinctive to that character/work of art and ideally different from modern street dress.

Sci-Fi and Fantasy: How is this different from fiction? The overlap is undeniable, but mostly we intend this category for things like superheroes, fantastical beings, and so forth. Stuff that does not and has never existed in the real world. No limit on the time period.

Division III: Zeitgeist 2020

These are special prize categories we’ve created just for this year. This crazy, crazy year. We all need something to feel cheerful and hopeful about, and maybe something to strengthen our resolve for whatever lies ahead. We’re inviting entries in the following categories (and we may add additional prize categories depending on what people send in):

Quarantine Creations: In the spirit of the #GettyMuseumChallenge, your goal here is to recreate a costume depicted in a work of art using only household items. (Work of art = painting, illustration, or photograph.) You’re in quarantine, so you can’t go buy a bunch of new fabric or special stuff or anything. Just use what you’ve got! For inspiration, follow the Getty hashtag on Twitter or check out this great blog post: People Recreate Works of Art With Objects Found at Home During Self-Quarantine. When you submit your entry, make sure you include a picture of the artwork you’re trying to recreate.

Marvelous Masks: MASKS SAVE LIVES. Everybody should wear a mask! This prize is for the best costume mask, and we’re going to leave it pretty open as to what that means. Carnival masks? Historical masks, like the plague masks of a few centuries ago? Clever incorporation of masking into an otherwise regular costume? Fantastic masks that transform you into an otherworldly creature? It’s up to you — have at it!

Trailblazer Tributes: From Sojourner Truth to Kamala Harris, from Seneca Falls to Black Lives Matter, women have been at the forefront of what President Obama once called “the hard work of making sure our nation makes progress on its road to becoming a more perfect union.” This year feels epochal in so many ways, and we invite you to honor and celebrate the abolitionists, suffragists, civil rights leaders, feminists, womanists, and glass ceiling breakers who’ve brought us this far. Yes, all of these people also fall into our Notable Women category, but this is an extra category this year to specifically salute civil rights, women’s rights, and indeed everyone doing the brave and necessary work of nurturing democracy.

Entry Classes

We award prizes in three classes: Amateur, Expert, and Junior (age 15 and under). This is so everybody can compete at their own level. Each of the categories above will actually result in up to three prizes, assuming we get entries in all three classes:

  • Amateur class = $50 Amazon gift certificate
  • Expert class = $50 Amazon gift certificate
  • Junior class = $25 Amazon gift certificate

When you send in your entry, tell us which class you think is appropriate.

Hang on, what does expert mean?

Expert class is for folks who are highly skilled at costuming. You know who you are: experienced cosplayers, RenFaire people, historical reenactors, theatre types. If you’re not sure, ask yourself the following:

  1. Have I (or the person who made my costume) competed at the Master or Journeyman level in a cosplay contest or other judged costume competition?
  2. Am I (or the person who made my costume) a skilled and experienced seamstress, artist, cosplayer, Renaissance Faire performer, historical reenactor, or theatrical costumer?
  3. Is my costume of professional quality, suitable for Renaissance Faire performances, historical reenactment, or a theatrical performance?

If the answer to any of those is “yes,” your entry may belong in the expert class. (But if you’re still not sure, just let us know. We’ll work it out. It’s not unusual for people to feel like they’re on the borderline.)

General Rules

1. Your entry must include the following information: your name, who or what the costume represents, your entry class (amateur, expert, junior), and at least one photograph of the costume.
2. Please also tell us which prize category or categories you are aiming for, such as Notable Women, Historical Recreation, Quarantine Creations, etc. This will help us understand your intention for the costume. But obviously there is overlap between the categories, and many costume entries will fall into more than one. Rest assured that when it’s time for judging the contest, we’ll put you in the category where you have the best chance to win.
3. Your entry photograph(s) should show the costume in full, and should be clear and well lit. Avoid distracting backgrounds that don’t contribute to your costume. You are welcome to send in multiple photos to help us appreciate the full glory of your creation.
4. By submitting your photo, you are giving us permission to publish it on the Take Back Halloween website, our Facebook page, our Twitter account, and our Instagram page.
5. If you’re submitting a contest entry on behalf of someone else, you must have that person’s permission to submit the entry and publish the photo. If other people appear in the photo, you must obtain their permission for us to use and publish it.
6. The costume may be from any time in the past three years. (We’re extending this since we didn’t have a contest in 2019.)
7. You may enter up to six costumes for consideration. (This is also expanded, since we didn’t have a contest in 2019.)
8. Submissions should be emailed to
9. The deadline for submissions is 11:59 pm EST on Sunday, November 1 November 15, 2020.

We expect to publish the winners about a week to ten days after the submission deadline.


If you’re new to Take Back Halloween, it might help to look at our contest winners from past years to get a sense of what we like:

2018 Costume Contest winners
2017 Costume Contest winners
2016 Costume Contest winners
2015 Costume Contest winners
2014 Costume Contest winners
2013 Costume Contest winners
2012 Costume Contest winner

Happy costuming!