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Halloween Costumes for Work – Don’t Embarrass Yourself

I love Halloween. What’s not to like? It’s the one day of the year adults are sanctioned to dress up, act silly, and eat a lot of candy. And I like Halloween at work. Dressing up and trick or treating from cubicle to cubicle makes work more fun, albeit relatively unproductive.

If you’re coming to work in costume on Halloween, have fun, but remember that you’re still at work. Like your company’s holiday party, anything you wear will likely be remembered, talked about, and photographed. And regardless of your company’s social media policy, those photos will go somewhere. If you don’t want a photo of yourself in costume online or on your company’s intranet site, wear something else.

A few guidelines for Halloween costumes for work:

  • Don’t show a lot of skin – cleavage at work is a no-no
  • Short, tight skirts, even on Halloween, are also not the best choice
  • If an outfit is tight or very fitted and doesn’t leave much to the imagination, it’s not appropriate for work

Here are a few examples of appropriate Halloween costumes for work:


Minnie Mouse

Office Space

We appreciate the nod to the film Office Space, which should be required viewing for everyone with a job.

The costumes above may not be the most exciting, but they won’t get you labeled as having bad judgment, nor will you be the topic of discussion, in a bad way, on Monday.

Here are a few examples of Halloween costumes at work that would be better left at home.

Scantily Clad Loofah

Spandex Spiderman

Sexy Mermaid

Halloween costumes for work can and should be fun. Just remember, people talk.

Add a comment to the blog about the most inappropriate costume you’ve seen at work, and we’ll enter you in a contest to win an item of your choosing from our shop ** Excludes training videos, kits and performance management tools.




Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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19 Responses to “Halloween Costumes for Work – Don’t Embarrass Yourself”

  1. Chris Cooper says:

    At our company we do not allow dressing up for Halloween, nor can we ever wear jeans or sports jerseys; however, I chime in to say I don’t understand why women find it fun to dress so inappropriate for Halloween or any other day for that matter! Classy dress generally covers cracks and cleavages!

  2. Denise says:

    I worked at a financial services firm and a woman came as a scantily clad witch. Then she proceeded to the executive floor and asked each exec to take a picture with her. She was talked about for years and not in the right way!

  3. Kim says:

    Your examples in the main email are perfect examples of what not to wear to work. I am shocked every year by the number of female staff that don the miniest of skirts, fishnet stockings and 6 inch heels to the office, even client managers. I just shake my head. I also applaud those who present fun, creative, respectable costumes that everybody enjoys. Last year our top costume winner was dressed as Bob Ross, the late, great artist of happy little trees. Perfect example for any office.

  4. Chris says:

    Actually this was a combination of three costumes plus photos. The costumes were Bill Clinton, Hilary and Monica Lewinski. Not too bad you think? The problem was the “skit” involving a desk and things deteriorated from there, complete with photos circulated around the office.

  5. Becky Nichols says:

    Every year we have a costume contest during the work day on Halloween. Although we state that you must comply with dress code, we had a female employee wear a nude colored body suit with tassels covering her nipples and hair covering her crotch area. I think she said something about being mother earth. Needless to say, we did not put the picture up for it to be voted on. This happened 4 years ago and employees still bring it up every Halloween as an example of what not to wear.

  6. Scott Correa says:

    Here is my dilemma, I came up with what I thought was a creative idea for a Halloween costume. I bought a white t-shirt and painted a big purple capitol ‘E’ on it. I accessorized it with a bolo tie. The idea was that I was dressed as E-Bolo, get it? Pretty scary! No one at the Halloween party I went to Saturday got it and when I explained it to them, they groaned. Would this be an acceptable costume to wear to work? And remember, before yo cry foul, more people have been married to Kim Kardasian then have died of e-bola in the US.

    • Shari Harley says:

      Hi Scott, I suspect you got the reaction you did because there is so much fear around ebola and so much that is unknown. People are scared and thus won’t find it funny. I’d find something else you wear on Friday to work. Good luck! Shari

    • Chris says:

      One of my best costumes is “masque of the red death” from the Poe story. I was going to do it this Halloween, but since it involves really gory plague makeup, decided to do something else because of the ebola problem.

  7. Lisa Carman says:

    I have seen extremely workplace-inappropriate costumes worn by women and men alike. I think the worst was a man coming to work as a slug. He basically wore his underwear and spray painted the rest of his body to resemble the slimey insect. It was disgusting all the way around.
    Unfortunately, some people have trouble understanding the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ attention, probably because they just WANT attention. ‘Good’ attention is: Your costume illicits laughter, smiles or surprise at your creativity. ‘Bad’ attention looks like this: Your costume is likely to generate office gossip that is inappropriate or mean.
    My general rule of thumb with attire, including Halloween costumes is: Are you being respectful of your co-workers and your customers?

  8. Colleen says:

    We no longer allow costumes at work (Medical Office) but we have had door decoration contests for fundraising for Breast Cancer support. You can imagine what the doors looked like. Only one was tame enough to rate a photo on our facebook page.

  9. Isabel says:

    Wearing a costume that shows way too much cleavage and an extremely short skirt is very inappropriate for work. The co-worker had worn this costume to a fundraiser Halloween ball (and received a lot of male attention) but showed up with the same costume at work and had to be sent home for a change. Not very good judgment on her part.

  10. Mark says:

    In my younger years, I worked at a movie theater. Being a first job for many (it was my third year there, two in a management position), several staff were still learning the ropes of being a young professional. Anyway, at the end of movie showings on Halloween, we had an office party. Two staff came dressed as the Twin Towers from September 11th! They were immediately admonished and sent home and both quit soon after that. The costumes were horribly offensive and insensitive. Come on!

  11. Jessica says:

    A coworker took great pride in creating her own costumes from scratch for a couple of years, and while she did an excellent job emulating the character she was shooting for, ill-fitting, low cut leotards with tights do not constitute office appropriate coverings!

  12. Kim says:

    A few years ago, a girl that works in my company wore a “butt” with a puppy hanging out the back of it. She had a sign that said “has anyone seen my puppy?” It was just so inappropriate for work, especially to be around customers.

  13. Alice says:

    Early in my career, I worked in a call center that catered to very large businesses. We were grouped into pods. The most fun we had on Halloween was dressing up with group costumes. Our group was the Peanuts Gang right down to Pig Pen (I was Pig Pen – with shirt half in and “dirt” on my face). What fun and it reinforced that we were all in it together, all the time.

  14. Debra Yoshimura says:

    A short time after the Columbine High School shootings, one “gentleman” at our company donned a long black coat and black pants and boots. I think he was going for another character, but most of us could not get past the similarity to the two shooters. It was unnerving.

  15. Aliya D. says:

    I work at a wonderful company that really embraces almost all opportunities for fun, including Halloween. My department often picks a theme (previous years we’ve created a haunted graveyard, spooky carnival and circus, insane asylum, etc.), and then we all participate in decorating our space (including building props) and picking theme-specific costumes. It’s one of the highlights of the year for me. This year, we have decided to do “Beautiful Africa” (because Ebola is creating so much fear and negative press).

    I have seen some rather questionable and eyebrow raising costumes through the years… One year, a (very Caucasian) co-worker dressed up as a black pimp and his female assistant came has his crack-addicted prostitute. That was a little shocking… I had another female co-worker come as Pamela Anderson from her Baywatch days (in a bathing suit). I have seen A LOT of skimpy (skank-a-licious) costumes worn by a lot of young women in the office; I am always surprised they do not see their choice of outfit a factor that may hinder or limit their future potential at the company.

  16. Chris says:

    I circulated this blog with managers at our organization as it is a good read and entertaining. One of them pointed out that not all of the costumes pictured under the link “appropriate Halloween costumes” are indeed appropriate for work, as they bare a lot more skin than is acceptable.

    • Shari Harley says:

      Hi Chris, Thanks for your note. I questioned some of those photos showed a bit too much skin too. I’d make the dresses longer. But they are, unfortunately, much better than what some folks are wearing today.

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