Halloween: Dress Up for Grown-Ups

They say youth is wasted on the young, but not when it comes to Halloween, now that grown-ups play dress up and party as scantily clad witches and super-cool ghouls.

This year Americans are expected to spend $3.12 billion on Halloween, up from $2.96 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation. That makes it the sixth-largest spending holiday, trailing only Christmas and Hanukkah ($220 billion), Valentine's Day ($13 billion), Easter ($10.5 billion), Mother's Day ($10.4 billion) and Father's Day ($8 billion).

It's no secret that adults are fueling Halloween's growth spurt. More than 70 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds celebrate the holiday. More than half of them attend a party, with the average consumer shelling out $43.57 on costumes, candy and other goodies.

Roughly speaking, some of the same costume themes are just as popular with adults and kids. Spider-Man is this year's runaway best seller, followed by princesses, witches, vampires and other monster themes, and SpongeBob SquarePants, according to the NRF.

However, the adult versions of these costumes are quite different than the ones for kids.

For instance, adult superhero outfits often come equipped with padded muscles and rock-hard synthetic abs that would make any cosmetic surgeon proud. And while the kiddy versions start at around $20, adult varieties can run to more than $100.

Hollywood can be counted on to produce Halloween heavyweights. Characters from "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Shrek" and "The Lord of the Rings" are popular with trick-or-treaters of all ages. Superman is experiencing a late surge, sadly as a result of Christopher Reeve's death.

Movies don't even have to be popular to inspire costumes. "Catwoman" was box office kitty litter, but Halle Berry's outfit is leaving women at retail stores scratching and clawing. The girls' version is decidedly more modest, but still popular.

Also a perennial hit: professional uniforms. But again, the adults go for a sexy remake of nurses, firefighters and construction workers, sometimes even complete with fishnet stockings.

"Pimps and hookers are always popular Halloween costumes for adults," says John Majdoch of Halloween Express, a wholesale distributor.

Costumes like "Ghoul Cheerleader" and "Perky Viking" need no description other than their title, and with Nicole Kidman's version of "Bewitched" coming to theaters next year, you can assume many women will be accessorizing a little black dress with a little black lipstick.

"These days, the witches are hardly old crones with twisted noses," Majdoch says. "They've got fishnets and you'd just want to jump in their cauldrons."

Here's a look at some of the haunting trends in adult Halloween:

1. The Ghost of the Democratic Party

Bad news for John Kerry: Costume suppliers say they've been able to predict every election back to 1980 based on rubber mask sales, and this year, George W. Bush is outselling his rival by a slim margin. But hold on, a Halloween political scandal might be brewing.

Halloween Express is now reporting that Kerry masks were inexplicably held up in U.S. Customs for two weeks. "There's no telling how it affected sales," says Majdoch. "Right now, they're very close."

If you had any doubt about the powerful predictive power of mask sales, BuyCostumes.com has been selling discounted Al Gore masks for three years, following his loss to Bush in 2000.

Sex and politics mix more easily on Halloween. At a costume party at Villanova University, student Joseph Breslin sported a Ralph Nader mask while his date wore a "Vote" T-shirt and hung on his arm, carrying a bottle of wine. Together, they were a wasted vote.

2. Do-It-Yourself Britney Bride-zillas

Take a Godzilla mask, find a wedding dress, and suddenly, and you're an instant Bride-zilla. Substitute a Britney Spears or Jennifer Lopez mask, and you're the next celebrity monster bride.

"This is a great costume for a woman to make amends for past real-life Bride-zilla behavior," says Bridie Clark, co-author of "The Halloween Handbook" (Workman), a do-it-yourself adult guide for costume making.

"Why not stick sponges all over your bridal outfit and be a self-absorbed bride?"

3. Jeepers, Creepers! Where'd You Get Those Alien Peepers?

These days, you can give people the evil eye even if you wear prescription lenses. The hottest development in Halloween eyewear is Wild Eye costume contact lenses.

For about $100, you can transform your pedestrian brown, green or blue peepers into burning red devil eyes. You can even blot out your pupils with shiny black X's, Magic 8-Balls or just about any sports team's logo.

Wild Eyes have the distinction of thrusting eye professionals into the costuming world. You shouldn't buy them from the same guys who sell you Groucho glasses, even if you don't need a corrective prescription. Just tell your eye doctor you want space alien contact lenses and hope you don't get referred to a mental health professional.

4. Plug 'n Socket Sex Appeal

Ever think of your electrical appliances as having a sex life? Costumer Rasta Imposta's hottest Halloween costume for couples is the "Plug 'n Socket" costume. The boy is the plug, the girl is the socket, and they fit nicely together.

Along the same lines Rasta Imposta also offers couples Nut & Bolt, Ball & Chain and Lock & Key costumes. "It all depends on the state of your relationship," says Tina Berman, who started the company about 10 years ago. "It's safe to say that each year costumes get more daring."

5. Modern Frights:

Where have you gone, Frankenstein? Nothing on a movie screen could be as frightening as the thought of nuclear war, and if you dare, Iparty.com offers a Halloween Biohazard suit, complete with gas mask and oxygen tank.

Another alternative to movie house horror: Don't bother dressing up as a traditional monster, go as a typical movie theater floor. The directions are in "The Original Duct Tape Halloween Book" (Workman) by Jim Berg and Tim Nyberg. Just make yourself a sticky-side-out duct-tape vest and cover it with popcorn kernels, candy bar wrappers and Jujubes — enough to make Dracula nauseous.

7. Inflatable Sumo Wrestler

This is guaranteed to make a big impression: The Inflatable Sumo Wrestler outfit from Partycity.com. Just flip a switch for instant girth.

A battery-powered pump is built into this $30 vinyl outfit, which comes complete with an internal fan to keep the wearer cool.

Other inflatable costumes promise to turn you into a fiendish clown or a huge, hideous pumpkin. You can inflate yourself to attain a chest like Anna Nicole Smith's or Tom Arnold's butt.

Best of all, at the end of the evening, you take off one of these outfits, and no matter how much Halloween candy you've eaten, you're sure to look 200 pounds lighter.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays.