Halloween costumes and fancy dress

What are the risks surrounding fancy dress?

Whether for a specific occasion like Halloween, or simply playing around the house, young children love to dress up. Unfortunately, fancy dress clothing has been implicated in a number of serious accidents.

Toy dress-up clothing can burn rapidly when accidentally ignited by contact with an open flame, such as a candle or open fire. This can cause serious injury, burns, and potentially death. Children are especially vulnerable in circumstances when they are playing without adult supervision.

Advice for parents

  • Check that all Halloween and fancy dress costumes you buy carry a CE mark on the label
  • As with all clothing, Halloween and fancy dress outfits should always be kept away from fire, lit candles and all other naked flames
  • If lit candles are part of your celebrations always follow their safety guidelines, and remember:
    • Always supervise children and pets if using lit candles
    • Do not allow children to carry, play, reach over, light or be near lit candles
    • Never leave a burning candle unattended
    • Remember always to extinguish a candle completely after use
    • Take care when using candles at Halloween. Do not carry pumpkins with lit candles inside, consider using battery-operated candles instead
  • Children should always be supervised by a suitable adult
  • If fireworks are part of your celebrations, follow the Firework Code (see our fireworks safety page for more information)
  • Be aware that homemade fancy dress costumes or those not tested to the same flammability standards may ignite easily and burn quicker
  • Ensure children can be seen in the dark; ideally they should wear something reflective such as a reflective strip, and carry a torch.

Better Halloween costume testing

RoSPA has been working with the British Retail Consortium and its members to develop a testing standard for the flammability of children’s dress-up costumes which goes beyond the legal level.

Following testing in UK laboratories, the voluntary standard means costumes should have a burn rate of 10mm per minute – 300 per cent slower than the current 30mm per minute standard.

Companies that have tested their costumes to this new standard will be allowed to print “This garment has undergone additional safety testing for flammability” on their labelling. They are also being asked to use more prominent fire safety labelling on packaging and on sew-in labels.

More details on this testing standard can be found on our Halloween costume law and advice for businesses page.


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