Forget disco chic, or flower power-era costumes. Here are 11 truly retro Halloween costume ideas from our archives. This Throwback Thursday, we bring you the most eerie and wacky outfits to ever grace the pages of Popular Science.
Silly Space Suit
Though this contraption is laughable with its limp spaghetti arms and a domed capsule that’s strongly reminiscent of Plankton from SpongeBob, it had noble beginnings as a suit designed for adventuring in space. > “A spaceman could use this suit while exploring the moon – and even rest in it if he’s on a long hike. It is equipped with retractable tripod legs that will hold it up off the ground and a built-in seat that he can curl up on while easing his tired feet.” A Halloween bonus: With its built-in food shelves, this costume would be perfect for hoarding treats. January 1961
Rubber Mattress Suit
This rubber suit may look like a repurposed air mattress, but it was tested as a way to keep British Air Force pilots afloat in water. Folded up, it was easy to tuck into a collar, where it waited until it was needed in the case of a forced landing or crash at sea. Or perhaps whenever the pilot’s in-laws came to visit. May 1948
This amorphous sinister mask may be perfect to freak out your friends, but its original purpose was totally innocuous — to keep German housewives from breathing in dust or lint particles while cleaning. We wrote in March 1932, >”…Its formidable appearance leaves room for doubt as to how widely it may ever be adopted.” An astute observation, Popular Science. Very astute.
For Heat Lovers
Keep cozy this Halloween with the Sauna Suit, a vinyl “sleeping bag” full of warm, dry air. >”All you do is connect to an ordinary hair dryer, slip inside, zip up the front, and relax. Warm air then inflates the suit to keep your body toasty warm.” In 1972, this portable sauna could be all yours for $34.95. Fabulous hairdo not included. June 1972
Sky Diver Suit
This isn’t a Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea cosplay. It’s an aerial “diving” suit for parachute jumpers. > “Made of special reinforced rubber, this French innovation is equipped with a lightweight metal helmet and provides space for two oxygen cylinders to supply the vital gas to the parachutist as he plunges earthward through the rarefied air found at high altitudes.” March 1939
Talking Gas Mask
Want to make a post-apocalyptic statement without sounding like a muffled Darth Vader? This talking gas mask could spice up any steampunk getup. > “A diaphragm of tracing cloth which cannot be penetrated by gases is held in place in front of the mouth by an aluminum disk. The vibration of the disk caused by the speaker’s voice transmits the sound almost as clearly as though no mask were worn.” August 1923
A Space Suit For The Subway
Scary stories won’t be the only thing giving you chills this Halloween if you don this temperature-controlled space suit. A daring Popular Science writer took the suit out for a test run to see how it would fare in the hot, stuffy subway. >”I revved up my motor and waited. Nothing. Then suddenly a icy chill started at the nape of my neck and ran down my spine, and I involuntarily shuddered. Weird. It spread to my crotch — weirder — and down my legs and up my chest and suddenly I was uncomfortably cold.”… >”Fellow passengers really didn’t mind when my plastic intestines just gurgled. But when one of the tubes for some reason started dripping liquid onto the floor, everyone moved away.” For a mere $200, you could feel as cool as an astronaut. November 1972
> A well-dressed news photographer would wear his camera, his darkroom, and a complete finishing outfit to work, if the latest British development should set the style. To save time, an enterprising newspaper cameraman (and apparently budding fashionisto), wore his boxy darkroom to a sports game. Today, you can Instagram your selfie for the world to see in a matter of seconds. Isn’t technology amazing? September 1932
Survive Like Gumby
You may look like Gumby while wearing this suit, but it could save your life (if not your social life). The Survival Suit served as a warm flotation device in the case of a shipwreck. Wearing it, people could survive up to 16 hours in 40-degree water. Normally someone floating in cold water would succumb to hypothermia in a matter of minutes. One size fits all. June 1976
> No Sherlock Holmes of fiction ever disguised himself with more versatility than Arthur N. Pack, president of the American Nature Association. When this well-known naturalist wants to approach timid animals in their native haunts, without frightening them out of range of his camera, he dons an appropriate costume. Posing as a cactus, Pack was able to photograph animals in the Arizona desert. You just know he would be that guy who wins the costume contest every year. March 1931
Diving For Gold Diggers
In January 1935, Popular Science debuted what is probably the most modest outfit in gold digging history. > Independent of air supply from the surface, a grotesque diving suit recently perfected is expected to carry a marine salvager down 2,500 feet, a depth hitherto impossible for divers. Tools such as claws, hooks and hammers are attached directly to the ends of the arms and operated by hand screws inside the sleeves. The suit even came with a telephone for instant communication with the surface. Fancy.