The dreaded couples costume. Few things can make a partner cringe faster than trying to come up with a clever pairing of costumes that can both stand alone at a party, and will work when spending time with that special someone. Rarely is the couple costume done well, with too many puns and inside jokes being lost on the viewers, or too much cutesie parody. It’s hard to find a pairing that’s good for both involved parties, highlights each person’s attributes, and won’t induce groans or nausea the moment your friends see it.
Our advice – if you must go with the conjoined costume – is to keep it simple, make it accessible, and find a broad spectrum arena where each person isn’t forced into choosing from either Ken or Barbie, but has a wider template to create an interesting tableau. Though it is generally impossible, here’s 21 couples costume ideas that aren’t terrible, and perfect for Halloween.
Star Wars: Force Awakens
You can’t go wrong with a Star Wars costume, and the wide cast of characters give you a lot from which to choose. Rather than going with a tired Slave Leia, snap up a linen robe and a stick to be the incomparable Mary Sue that is newbie Jedi Rey. Or, get a black mask and a silly cross-piece lightsaber and throw a hissy fit to be Kylo Ren, AKA Darth Whiner.
Poison Ivy & Harley Quinn
Thanks to Suicide Squad and Margot Robbie parading around in fishnets and short shorts, there’s a glut of Harley Quinns out there, but for a pairing of ladies it’s time to show your nerd cred by going with the gal pals from the comic that truly showed that smart and deadly is the new sexy.
Netflix & Chill
About as easy as a couples costume gets, you can make this at home, or grab a couple of T-shirts with the appropriate phrase on them. It is terrible word-play that barely deserves the moniker, but it will get you into a costume and out of a pinch in a way that might give someone a chuckle.
A couple of jumpsuits and name tags are all it takes to make a basic Ghostbusters costume, and with the new film it’s good for any pair of people, whether you’re romantically inclined or not. Add in proton packs and masks for authenticity, or mix up the characters by including a pair of glasses to be Kevin, Louis Tully, or Janine Melnitz. Green yourself and be Slimer if you like, or tease your hair and don a robe to be Dana Barrett, AKA Zuul The Gatekeeper of Gozer.
An oldie but a goodie, there’s little complexity to being either the Dread Pirate Roberts or Princess Buttercup. One takes little more than a black outfit with a cloth mask, the other a robe and perhaps a crown. As much or as little accuracy as you like can go into it. Those who want extra credit: Be Miracle Max and Valerie.
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
To honor the passing of Gene Wilder, we must insist that you use his depiction of the mad chocolatier rather than the painfully forgettable Johnny Depp version. For couples with a height disparity, one can be an oompa loompa, or anyone with a red dress and white tights can be the notable brat Veruca Salt. All it takes is a little pure imagination.
White shirts, black slacks, a pair of ties, and some religious literature lands you a costume that is instantly recognizable by anyone who has been forced to pretend they are not home. Slick down your hair, slap on a smile, and you’re prepared to head out and spread the good word on the sinfully pagan All Hallows Eve. Save some souls while you’re at it.
Nightmare Before Christmas
You couldn’t ask for a better Halloween couple than the Pumpkin King and his undead paramour. If Jack isn’t your speed, then grab a wheelchair and a papier-mâché head to be Sally’s eerie keeper, Dr. Finkelstein. Or a sack cloth and just be Oogie Boogie, since he’s the real star.
For the poster board and paint crowd who don’t mind being forever attached at the hip, a set of Nerds candy provides a perfectly innocuous costume that brings together the two best things about Halloween: Candy and Candy of a Slightly Different Color That May or May Not Be The Same Flavor.
Pokémon & Trainer
This couple chose to go with the classic Ash & Pikachu pairing, but don’t let that hold you down. A fluffy Pokéball (or, with the popularity of Pokémon Go, just a phone) transforms you into a trainer. The other person can then choose from the hundreds of beasts in their various evolutions. This is good for couples where one loves to go all out and the other just wants to wear a hat and carry a ball.
Once Upon A Time
Rather than just dressing up as Snow White and a Dwarf or Cinderella and Prince Charming, Once Upon a Time provides an updated version of each character that is easy to emulate and quick to be recognized by fans of the show.
The massive mix & match set of couples from both the Green Arrow comics, and the hugely successful CW show give a deep well from which to pull. Nyssa al Ghul and the Black Canary are our favorite for female couples, but they also require the most work. A red hoodie and a short skirt also work for going as Roy Harper and Thea Queen; or get a Deathstroke mask and a black hood to be Slade Wilson and Shado.
The Stranger Things phenomenon is full of fodder for couples costumes. Here we’ve got one of the most creative, in Joyce Byers and her lovely wall, but who wouldn’t love to be Eleven in her awkward blond wig or Dustin in his trucker cap? Especially helpful if you’re missing teeth.
A Breaking Bad reference is never too old. The yellow jumpsuits and gas masks make a Walter White and Jessie Pinkman pairing easy to pull off, so long as you yell “bitch” enough. You can also slap on sunglasses and a trilby cap to be Heisenberg and a double-breasted suit to pull out a little Saul Goodman.
Orange is the New Black
Best for women, choosing from the bright arrangement of diverse characters that populate the show, a little prison finery and the right wig will make the outfit. Apparently you can also have your make-up done professionally, since Netflix seems to think that happens in prison.
Trump & Hillary
The fun to be had here isn’t so much in the white cotton, but in the ability to use printouts of whatever social media you fancy. Rife for satire, this is good for mocking everything under the sun when you do it right.
Batman & Robin
There’s enough Bat-people and versions of Robin to allow for any gender bending you want, along with the ability to pick from any iteration out there.
Transcending ages, races, genders, and personalities, a little zombie makeup works wonders, especially if you have a partner that likes toting around a crossbow, a Colt Python, a samurai sword, or has a mullet. That’s a joke since no one with a mullet is going to be wearing a costume for couples.
Captain America: Civil War
Barely worthy of mention, the advantage here is that the Marvel universe gives you a load of choices so long as you have an unnaturally fit body crammed into a suit. There’s also a range of complexity for couples to mix and match. A pair of converted catsuits, and you can be Black Panther and Black Widow in a matter of minutes.
10 Cloverfield Lane
Emmett & Michelle from 10 Cloverfield Lane wins our prize for best outfits by the truly lazy. Jeans, tank tops, flannel, and a brown cap get you in. Now that’s topical laundry-bin costuming.