If you’re sufficiently entrenched in the world of social media, you may have noticed a phenomenon occurring around Halloween. These days, the holiday has almost split in two: There’s the layman’s Halloween, which plays out in real life at various parties and events before it’s documented and disseminated on TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter for mass consumption; and then there’s celebrity Halloween, which shows up on all the same social media sites, but seems to be completely void of that real-life aspect. Over the past few years, celebrities have been debuting two, three, sometimes even four costumes while building up to the holiday. But quite often, these costumes never see the light of day. They just live and die on a photo shoot set.
Likely, your mind immediately went to Kylie Jenner, who has become the de facto champion of Instagram Halloween. The reality star has so far showed off three different looks that are clearly the result of three highly controlled, highly edited shoots.
Now, that’s not to say these aren’t good costumes. In fact, they’re great costumes. Her Bride of Frankenstein character wore custom Glenn Martens for Jean Paul Gaultier couture, which was impeccable. Her Elvira was absolutely spot on (though the consensus from the comments section is that the photos were too heavily edited to achieve Jenner’s uncanny resemblance to the Mistress of the Dark). Her third costume, a red latex-clad astronaut fighting space aliens, was also adorable. But none of these outfits ever made it out of the house, as far as we know.
Does it really count as a costume if it’s only meant to be more content? For Jenner, who is always showing off eclectic ensembles (often of the costume-y nature, especially when she’s promoting a new Kylie Cosmetics collab), it’s unclear how these three differentiate themselves from the photos she posts on any other day of the year.
When Jenner did actually step out for a Halloween party on Saturday night, she went dressed as the Bride of Frankenstein, but she wore a completely different ensemble, proving the impracticality of her photo shoot costumes. For that outing, Jenner wore a custom Miss Sohee dress, along with a wig that would very much befit a modern Bride of Frankenstein. It’s a cute look, but if Jenner would have worn her Elvira costume, or her alien-fighting getup for a Halloween night out, I would have been more convinced.
As a contrast, Jenner’s older sister, Kendall, wore what was unmistakably a genuine costume during that same night out, dressing as Jessie from Toy Story. Kendall also showed off her costume on Instagram in a curated set of images, but we have proof that she actually wore the outfit out of the house (because, again, that’s what you do on Halloween). Another great example is their friend Hailey Bieber, who came up with two super fun, creative, fashion-inspired ensembles this year, and yes, engaged in a quick photo shoot in them, but ultimately wore them out of the house to her Halloween festivities. Maybe Bieber’s costumes couldn’t be as perfect because they had to be worn at a hot, sweaty party for hours, but that’s what makes them authentic and relatable to all of us—those who worked for hours on the perfect, timely, unique costume, only for it to get trampled at a house party where half the girls wore cat ears and called it a day.
Now, Jenner isn’t the only one who has fallen into the trap of Halloween photo shoots. Many other celebs have also engaged in this trend, including Chlöe Bailey (who showed off Storm and Lola Bunny costumes on Instagram), as well as Keke Palmer, who pleased fans when she dressed up like Rapunzel, then Rogue from the X-Men. Palmer had the added element of filming videos in character, making the ensembles feel more dimensional than those that just got the photo shoot treatment.
Still, there’s something lost when you know a Halloween costume wasn’t whipped together the week before, then forced to endure a night of spilled tequila sodas and (maybe) some tears. In fact, it turns out that sometimes these looks are planned out months in advance. Ariana Grande, who dressed up as the characters from Best in Show with Elizabeth Gillies, admitted she and Gillies filmed that content back in May. (Now those characterizations were absolutely incredible.)
But again, I must ask, is that Halloween content or just content? Honestly, though, it may not matter, and maybe I should just shut up and enjoy what these celebrities have to offer. I mean, I will double-click on Jenner as Elvira over another set of photos of her in a bikini any day.