Or is it the strictly prescribed expression of an unbound human need to disguise oneself, to play, to have fun and to "step out" of character?
Every year there are schools that draw a boundary line with regard to the manner of costumes that can be worn - or indeed, if at all - in a classroom.
Disclosure: I have a long history of making costumes for myself, for family members and for friends. These déguisements have been worn not only at Hallowe'en but on many other occasions. A friend and I may were among the first people in Ottawa to dress up at a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Towne Cinema, back in the 70s. I lent him a lacy bra for his take on Dr Frank'n'Furter.
Last year I viewed an exhibition of ofrendas created by artists of Latina ancestry for Día de los Muertos - the day of the Dead - in Arizona. That tradition is extremely moving, and as someone who grew up in a francophone, catholic environment, the politically engaged and charged art created by the Mexican-American activists resonated with my own perspectives.
Wearing costumes can be joyous, creative and affirming. The ambivalence I feel about putting limitations on such opportunities concerns the ugliness displayed by most costumes, as they demonstrate bigotry, ethnic and cultural stereotypes and as well, the mercenary appropriation of the human need to express and experience oneself in a different way.