Those who were children during the original Star Wars trilogy era had plenty of advantages, not the least of which being the absolute onslaught of goofy Halloween costumes. Take this one, for example!
This “Lord Darth Vader” costume from 1983 is just one of the many similarly-styled Ben Cooper Star Wars costumes that creeped into stores at around this time of year.
While it’s no big shock that Vader landed his own Halloween costume, the collection was truly sprawling, covering such “luminaries” as Admiral Ackbar and a Gamorrean Guard. Each movie of the original trilogy signaled another costume push, and from the late ‘70s through the mid ‘80s, any kid who wanted to be a Star Wars character for Halloween had ample ammunition.
Of course, you needn’t necessarily be a lifelong Star Wars fan to remember costumes like these. Those “mask-and-smock” costume sets were incredibly ubiquitous back then, hitting upon characters from virtually every major property, from Aliens to Holly Hobbie.
Whether they were from Ben Cooper, Collegeville, or another company, the costumes were always sold in crude window boxes, and they always amounted to dressing up in plastic jumpsuits with flimsy masks. It was awesome.
Even more appealing was the fact that such costumes were primarily sold at toy stores. Toys “R” Us still sets up Halloween sections today, but it’s a far cry from what they did back in the early ‘80s, when the whole fronts of the stores were transformed into bustling, floor-to-ceiling Halloween meccas, stuffed with every costume a kid could possibly desire.
(And of course, that let us turn our simple costume excursions into pleas for one more action figure. “Come on, Mom. They’re right over there.”)
These costumes seem cheesy by today’s standards, but back then, we totally did not view them that way.
The real Darth Vader may not have been bold enough to advertise himself with a plastic shirt, but it was still no big leap to imagine ourselves as Dark Lords of the Sith. (To complete the ensemble, some kids painted empty rolls of wrapping paper for suitable lightsaber stand-ins!)
Halloween was a chance to be our heroes, but that was only the start of it. Many young fans wore Ben Cooper’s Star Wars costumes for as long as they could… which I’ll grant was not very long, since the thin plastic wasn’t very good at surviving a kid’s normal play activities. Still, for as long as it lasted, we were on top of the world!
(Note: I actually don’t have charred red flesh. Today’s model was chosen because old costumes meant for five-year-olds don’t tend to fit people who write glowing tributes to old costumes meant for five-year-olds.)
How big was the collection? Well, Ben Cooper covered many of the obvious characters, like Luke, Leia and Chewie. C-3PO, R2-D2, and Yoda were also in the mix. Then you had Boba Fett, Wicket, and even Klaatu! Han Solo was the only glaring omission, I assume due to a licensing hiccup.
I look at these costumes, and I’m instantly reminded of a time when nothing in the world mattered more than a pillowcase full of fun-sized Snickers bars.
If you want to “buy back” some of those memories, many of the vintage Ben Cooper Star Wars costumes are still reasonably priced, though a few can fetch more than $50 if they’re in pristine condition. They might not fit your adult-sized bodies, but hey, they still pass the collector’s litmus test by looking great on a shelf!