Halloween is so much more than a date on the calendar: It’s a way of life. Some people wait all year long for Halloween to roll around, spending months conjuring up the perfect costumes to live out their fantasies. Disguise has been helping the world play dress-up for more than 30 years with an assortment of costumes and accessories that bring make-believe to real life.

While kids have favorite cartoon characters and superheroes that they dream of becoming, it’s the leaders of the Halloween industry who are responsible for curating exactly which costumes will appear in our shopping carts or on our doorsteps next year.


Disguise’s Executive Vice President and General Manager Tara Hefter explains how the costume company determines the Halloween trends far before pumpkin spice season hits. “Our licensors guide us on which brands are making a comeback or which movies and TV shows will be releasing, and we generally know this information two to three years before the public. We also attend trade shows for licensing and gaming. We look for licensing cues from apparel and toys in terms of which brands kids are embracing year-round.”

The fashion world also has a hand in what materials and color trends the costume designers use. Hefter references the flip sequin craze as an example, which made its way into last year’s costumes because of its popularity in everyday apparel, accessories, and toys.

Social media plays a big role in trend spotting as well. Disguise looks to social media to know what consumers are looking for or what types of costumes they are making on their own because that means that although it isn’t available at retail yet, there is a growing market for it, Hefter says.


When it comes to specific genres of costumes, movies drive the most volume for Disguise. Beginning this year, the company has the rights to Harry Potter, which translates well to Halloween themes and playing dress-up because it appeals to all ages and has a large breadth of characters, Hefter says.

Disguise will also release more Trolls costumes after Trolls World Tour hits theaters in April. “Trolls is a retro brand seeing a big resurgence with a whole new audience while still appealing to a broad range of consumers with group/family costume opportunities,” Hefter says. “Plus, the hair is so fun!”

Disguise’s Elsa costume was the company’s No. 1 best-selling costume last year.

Consumers can also expect tons of new Disney-licensed costumes featuring new films and TV shows, such as Frozen 2, Zombies 2, Onward, Mira the Detective, T.O.T.S., the live-action Mulan reboot, Rain, and Disney+ content.

Video game costumes have also been gaining popularity in recent years. “Video games sales are growing every year as gaming becomes as important to [kids] as superheroes, and continues to appeal to younger audiences,” Hefter says. Following the trend, Disguise will launch costumes based on the battle royale game Apex Legends this year.

The process of getting the rights to new licenses may seem daunting, but Hefter boils it down to the basics: “Licensors from big studios require a proposal or a pitch for the rights, where we go in and compete with other costume companies for the business. And in some cases, the challenge is tracking down the property owner on a new brand and convincing them to get into the costumes business.”


As for the design process, sometimes costumes are created differently for specific retailers or particular sizes.

Disguise transforms kids’ costumes into adult versions by adding elements to make it more fashion-forward or more customizable to the consumer. “We sell multiple interpretations for adults, whether it be more of a traditional jumpsuit to a comfortable onesie or a skirt interpretation of a character that isn’t wearing a skirt to a different silhouette that is more flattering to plus sizes,” Hefter says. Disguise even creates kits that adults can use with a simple, colored T-shirt they already own.

The customization isn’t limited to fashion. Designers are also diversifying traditional costume styles to make them more accessible for people with disabilities because Halloween should be fun for everyone. Special-needs costumes are becoming more prominent as manufacturers and retailers recognize that costumes need to be inclusive for all, Hefter says.


Family dressing, group dressing, and retro/vault brands continue to grow each year, and they will show up next Halloween, too. Hefter says that with Halloween falling on a Saturday this year, more teens and adults will dress up in costumes, and kids will likely wear more than one costume for weekend parties.

“Innovative features will still be important, such as lights, sounds, inflatables, and transformation, like our Transformers Converting Bumblebee Costume [pictured above] that launched last year,” Hefter says.

Overall, licensing remains strong, which means consumers will see lots of familiar faces trick-or-treating as Disguise brings popular characters from the screen to Halloween.

This article originally appeared in the December/January 2020 issue of the Toy Book.

About the author

Jackie Cucco

Jackie Cucco

Jackie Cucco was a Senior Editor of The Toy Book, The Toy Insider, and The Pop Insider. She covered toy trends, pop culture, and entertainment news, and made appearances on national and regional outlets, including CBS, WPIX, News 12, and more. Jackie spends her time watching horror movies and working her way through every Stephen King novel out there.