There’s nothing wrong with the concept of couple's costumes; we smile, after all, at old couples who wear matching clothes. And perhaps if Hollywood had written more Halloween-themed romantic comedies, costumes for couples would have a better reputation. No one, we can admit, bats an eye when a couple shows up in matching ugly sweaters for the office Xmas party.
But, when we see a couple — especially a new couple — in matching costumes at Halloween, we tend to brace ourselves for one of two things. Either the couple is going to be super cute to the point of being syrupy (or worse), or the costume pairing will turn out to be an outward expression of an internal problem that will reveal itself over the course of the evening.
I have to express a grudging preference for the former, even if it’s a little saccharine: Give me a matching denim Britney-and-Justin from the 90s or Victorian zombies any day, as long as it involves some creativity. A good idea means the opportunity to spend quality time building your costumes together, whether you choose to go funny or incredibly scary. Just stand out from the store-bought, and make your own monstrous ideas come to life.
Some costumes won’t require much shopping outside of your own closet — you just need makeup, an outfit you don’t mind sacrificing to the Halloween gods and you’re all set. You can find everything from tutorials to product recommendations on YouTube. If you get it right, your final design can even be perfect for an Instagram photo op. It’s wonderful when the communication and coordination work out.
Those couples are not why people hate couple's costumes. The people who use couple's costumes solely to announce their couplehood in an ostentatious fashion rather than to celebrate the holiday? Those people are one reason people hate couples' costumes. Dressing up as a dog and a fire hydrant is sort of funny … but only if you’re not really marking your territory. I promise you, that joke isn’t all that funny the first time. By the 10th time, we’re more interested in watching you leave than anything else.
As for all the Bella-and-Edwards or Christian-and-Anastasias out there, we’re happy that you love each other, but we would all love not to know what your plans are for that costume later. Have the fun! Keep at least some mystery for random passerby. And you should definitely resist all urges to christen that costume in the bathroom at the party — or on the front steps. No costume is worth an indecent exposure ticket.
And let’s be clear here, there’s no reason to include cultural appropriation or racism in your costume ideas. That weird impulse you feel to reach for the black or brown face paint? It’s a terrible idea. Pimp and ho? Just no. It’s going to come back to bite you later. And while you’re at it, avoid anything that glorifies domestic violence: No one's going to believe you’re the picture of domestic bliss (or always will be) if you think it’s funny to go as O.J. and Nicole. It’s not. We don’t think your costumes mocking murdered people and their (alleged) (supposedly) murderers are edgy commentaries either. We just think you’re both jerks.
Yes, it’s all offensive. No one is overreacting when they tell you not to do it, and no one’s kidding when they tell you it’s not a harmless joke.
On the other side of the coin? No one wants to be there for the awkward fight when the communication breaks down about a costume pairing gone awry. If she shows up as Natasha Romanoff and he’s dressed as Tsar Romanov, hapless partygoers are going to be watching a ridiculous argument. We’re probably even betting on Natasha to win, which won’t make you feel any better.
Or if you’re the person who has a fight with your significant other at an outdoor party because you’re shivering in a flimsy sexy nurse costume and he’s warm as can be in his Dr. Who suit and scarf? I’m here to tell you that not only can we all hear you, we’re suffocating ourselves because, while it’s not funny to you, it is hilarious to us.
So get creative when you’re shopping, whether that’s in a store or in your own closet — but don’t craft cruelty into your costume together, whether to one another or anyone else. Halloween is supposed to be fun — a time to be a little silly and to celebrate that childlike spirit that hopefully exists inside all of us.
There is no reason to let a costume add additional stress to your relationships or to the holiday. Have fun, be semi-kind, and take your making out and breaking up outside. The rest of us are trying to hide how much candy we’re sneakily eating.