I have some recollections of those old store-bought costumes consisting of a plastic mask (with a rubber bad to hold them on your head) and a plastic smock with a picture of the character and a logo related to the character, but I cannot for the life of me ever recall wearing one of these things! And they were around for so many years. I guess my mom was good at making my costumes, of which I most remember a clown made from red polka dot fabric; Pebbles, with a dress made from a burlap sack adorned with cut-out drawings of dinosaurs on felt; and Miss Piggy with a sewn mask and pink dress. The smock and mask costumes were made by Collegeville, Ben Cooper and the lesser-known Halco.
This link says there were Smurfs and Strawberry Shortcake costumes made this way. I was so into those characters back in the day that I can't believe I missed those costumes! Then again, I probably never looked for these things.
These things came in window boxes through which you could only see the mask. The smock, as I recall, looked like vinyl hospital gown. This blogger recently found one of these masks, of Pee Wee Herman. I remember a girl--yes, a girl!--at my high school going as Pee Wee Herman, on Halloween in 1986. But she made it herself, I'm assuming, since it wasn't one of these mask- and smock combos.
Most were based on popular characters, which is true of the store-bought costumes of today. But some of these old-style were quite questionable and were based on characters or objects that did not seem like someone or something that a kid would insert into the phrase "I want to be ___ for Halloween." Did anyone ever even have a Pulsar action figure, let alone want to wear the costume? And just who were these characters pictured below?
Another interesting picture I found from the same photo collection from which I found the above photo:
I believe that one of the masks pictured is Apricot from the old Strawberry Shortcake line from the 80s.
View the worst such costumes according to this link.
I have to bet that even back in the day no kid would want to go as Baretta. I mean, were kids under 10 even allowed to watch that show? Chuck Barris? As Popular as "The Gong Show" was, I certainly cannot imagine a kid wanting to be Chuck Barris. He doesn't sound like a celebrity who would inspire a Halloween costume. And I definitely agree about the "Father Murphy" one. I'm sure I never saw any of the kids at school wearing that one. And did anyone ever want to be a video game or toy for Halloween? Today you see costumes based on foods, beverage containers and inanitimate objects, but how common was this in the 80s? The most I remember seeing one girl in high school as a bunch of grapes and three fellow students in 1987 as California Cooler jugs--remember those? But I cannot remember any of my fellow fourth-graders as a Rubik's Cube or the Asteroids game (those were popular around the time I was in fourth grade, 1980-81). Somehow the idea of making a Rubik's Cube from a box occurred to someone more recently. This, I believe, is a much better way to represent this toy, if someone should so desire. That Rubik mask is just too silly, let alone the image on the smock.
And here a some based on real people. What? No Michael Jackson? Hard to believe, given his 70s and 80s popularity. On the other hand, Farrah Fawcett was represented. Would be scary to see this today.