Pop culture-inspired Halloween costumes of 2021: from 'Squid Game' to 'Cruella'

A guide to achieving the most talked-about looks of the year

Halloween is around the corner and if you've not yet ironed out your costume for the upcoming festivities, allow us to help with some pop culture inspiration.

This year, the focus is squarely on Netflix's Squid Game, be it player costumes or the guards' red jumpsuits.

However, there is also a Met Gala to mine for costume concepts, as well as the year's other hit television shows, movies, musical releases and major news stories.

Lian Goroste a shop assistant at the Party Centre, a fancy dress and party accessories store in Dubai Internet City, told The National that Squid Game is their most requested costume of the year so far.

The shop no longer has costumes inspired by the hit South Korean show in stock, but says that customers are happy to leave with a Money Heist costume in hand – the two hit Netflix shows with easily identifiable red dress codes. The Money Heist set costs Dh210, and covers the trick-or-treater head-to-toe, and includes the Dali mask.

Although pop culture-inspired costumes are a current favourite, Goroste says Halloween classics are not out of fashion.

“People have come looking for ghosts and vampire costumes,” she says, “for both children and adults.

"People are also buying a lot of face paint this year, and some clients want prophetic scars or fake blood.”

Here we spell out exactly how to achieve the most talked about pop culture Halloween costumes of the year:

Diversify your 'Squid Game' costume

It goes without saying that Squid Game is the talk of Halloween 2021.

Singer Hayley Kiyoko dressed up in the series' green and white player tracksuit for an early Halloween celebration, and costume shops have reported a spike in red jumpsuit purchases.

How to recreate the look: There are a number of ways you can tackle a Squid Game costume. You could go down the player route, with a numbered tracksuit and dalgona candy as an accessory. With the number 067 on her tracksuit, Kiyoko chose to specifically dress up as HoYeon Jung's character Kang Sae-byeok.

Or, you could also opt to wear a red jumpsuit with a black mask and square, triangle or circle emblem, depending on your self-assigned seniority.

If you happen to have a lion, bull, owl or leopard mask, with access to a glue gun and a generous handful of gold sequins, bedazzle it to make a VIP mask which you can wear with a suit – a way to make it very clear you've watched Squid Game come October 31, without following the red jumpsuited masses. Just don't fully commit to VIP #4's costume, that will get you in a lot of trouble in UAE bars.

We also foresee a number of orange dresses being layered over yellow tops, in homage to the singing doll in the Red Light, Green Light episode.

Kim Kardashian West's Met Gala look

As soon as Kim Kardashian West stepped onto the Met Gala red carpet, her head-to-toe black look was earmarked as a hot Halloween costume by fans.

Kardashian West wore a black spandex Balenciaga outfit that covered her face (Covid-19-friendly) for the biggest fashion gala in New York City. This costume can also lend itself to co-ordinated couples, as the brand's creative director Demna Gvasalia walked the red carpet in a similarly masked look, with black sweat pants, a hoodie and slippers.

How to recreate the look: This one is simple. Dig out black leggings, a black top, pointy black boots and a pair of tights to poke a hole in to accommodate your pony tail. Extra points if you go to Satwa and pick up two stretches of black jersey fabric to tuck into your leggings. The devil will be in the detail when it comes to this look, so spend the time you'd usually designate to gruesome face paint to matching the myriad shades of black you're wearing.

More Met Gala-inspired costumes

Due to Covid-19, the Met Gala was moved from May to September this year. While fashion lovers may have lamented the four-month delay, it does mean that it's fresh in our minds, ready to be recreated for Halloween.

Another look that sparked plenty of memes was ASAP Rocky's quilted throw.

How to recreate the look: Another low-effort, high-reward look. Gents can wear a suit with black trainers, then cover it with a colourful quilted blanket. ASAP Rocky's was found in a California thrift store by ERL designer, Eli Russell Linnetz. Follow in Linnetz's footsteps for the look, and buy a previously loved blanket to wear.

Assuming your friends are up-to-date on their celebrity fashion references, the look will be instantly recognisable.

#FreeBritney supporter

TOPSHOT - Supporters of the FreeBritney movement rally in support of musician Britney Spears following a conservatorship court hearing in Los Angeles, California on March 17, 2021. Free Britney supporters of fans of Spears have closely followed her conservatorship case and rallied that the pop singer should be legally allowed to decide her own affairs. / AFP / Patrick T. FALLON

Marry your 2021 Halloween costume with a cause you care about, such as the #FreeBritney movement.

Fans of Britney Spears have formed a growing movement, and picketed the numerous court dates in her legal battle to remove her father from her conservatorship.

How to recreate the look: Dress down with a Oops!... I Did It Again T-shirt paired with leggings and a homemade banner, sporting the #FreeBritney logo and images of the pop star.

Wanda Maximoff's 'WandaVision' costumes

Elizabeth Olsen is Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios' WandaVision. Courtesy Disney+

Every year there is a deluge of Marvel costumes – official or homemade – at Halloween parties and on trick-or-treating kids. This year will be no different, but there may be a good number of 1950s-style prom dresses worn in the name of Marvel, thanks to WandaVision.

How to recreate the look: WandaVision travels through time and television tropes, so there is no one costume for the show. The most recognisable look is, arguably, Wanda Maximoff and Vision in a black-and-white 1950s setting, with Elizabeth Olsen's character in a dress and apron.

The narrative moves through the decades, with a stint in the 1970s, 1990s and 2000s, so why not embrace the full series with multiple costume changes during the night?

For a 1990s Halloween party during the series, Wanda herself dresses up as a Scarlet Witch, based on the character's comic-book outfit. Meta Marvel points go to any fans to take that costume route.

Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker

If you're in a new relationship, there is only one option come Halloween, dress up as the world's most loved-up couple, Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker.

The reality TV star and Blink-182 drummer got engaged on October 18 and made headlines.

How to recreate the look: Those who pride themselves on their attention to detail should recreate a specific look, say the couple's engagement night. Kardashian-alikes should wear a black dress, black nail varnish and a giant oval-shaped ring, a glass or plastic substitute works well for anyone whose budget won't stretch to the Dh1.5 million for a real eight to 10-carat replica.

Anyone dressing up as Barker can wear black boots, black jeans and a striped top for the occasion. A bunch of red roses will add to the majesty of the costume.

'Certified Lover Boy' album cover

If you happen to be a group of exactly 12 friends who are looking for a low-maintenance costume choice, Drake's Certified Lover Boy album cover could provide the answer.

The 2021 release features 12 colourful emoji women, all of whom are pregnant and wearing different colour tops.

How to recreate the look: If you're actually pregnant, you have a head start with this costume, if not, a balloon or cushion up your top will do the trick. Then simply share out the rainbow of jumpers among the group, there are yellow, blue, green, pink, red and orange options to choose from, then hug your bump all night.

A space tourist

2021 has very much been the year for the billionaire's space race, so why not mine the out-of-this-world news stories for Halloween inspiration.

How to recreate the look: Simply pick your billionaire – are you more Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson or Elon Musk? – and build a co-ordinating rocket, a Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic or SpaceX capsule, respectively.

The look was successfully attempted by a dog owner at the 2021 Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade, so turn to them for costume inspiration.

Update your Cruella de Vil costume

Emma Stone as Cruella in Disney’s live-action CRUELLA. Photo by Laurie Sparham. © 2021 Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Speaking of dogs, Cruella de Vil is likely to be a popular Halloween costume choice this year.

However, we're not talking Glenn Close's 1996 interpretation of the character, with animal print shawls and a cigarette holder accessory. Turn to Emma Stone's take on the character in the 2021 origin story, Cruella.

How to recreate the look: Don your most glamorous red gown, a black mask and a black and white wig for a chic Halloween cocktail party. If you own a Dalmatian, and they're not going to find it too traumatising, take them along for the festivities, otherwise a stuffed toy accessory is the next best thing.

Updated: October 28th 2021, 7:12 AM