Dressing up is often the most enjoyable and creative part of celebrating All Hallows’ Eve. But as more and more fashion trends embrace playfulness in everyday life, we’re starting to learn how to make each moment a trick or treat of individual style. Zoe Azuma Martin explains why she’s in the holiday spirit all year round.

By Zoe Azuma MartinFor many of us, wearing costumes is something rare and enjoyable, whether in theater productions, cosplay, or themed parties. Costumes signify an escape that doesn’t remove ourselves from the scene, but sets us on a brighter stage. I look forward to Halloween, when everybody gets to share this excitement together. Our costumes will fit in on a night of bright lights, plastic monsters, and ghost cutouts, but this is also a problem. Why is it that to have the special feeling that dressing up gives us, we wait for a day when we won’t stand out? What are we afraid of?This October in Greenwich Village, strangers have told me that “it isn’t Halloween yet.” As a nineteen-year-old Asian-American student at the New School, I participate in Lolita fashion, a Japanese street fashion. It features elaborate prints in such themes as carnivals, castles, sweets, and coffins, and is characterized by knee-length petticoats, parasols, bonnets, and bows. I used to wear sweatpants and my father’s shirts in middle school, but my switch to Lolita changed my outlook. For me, dressing up all year round has turned fantastical fashion, which I previously thought was reserved for special occasions, into an opportunity to approach every day with self-acceptance. Dressing to make myself happy, instead of to look conventionally acceptable, is the way I resist my feelings of self-doubt. I don’t disappear; I only dress louder. Lolita fashion is not a costume, but it makes me feel more prepared. Not because of people’s approval, but because of the value I put on my own happiness.Even if wearing what you’d most like to wear isn’t feasible, you shouldn’t have to worry about what others think or expect. That empowers you to better listen to and and be yourself. The small decisions we make every day are opportunities to act on our passions, whether you prefer revealing or modest clothing, alternative or mainstream fashion. We are never too old to feel good about ourselves.So wear those Bugs Bunny socks that you think are childish. Wear your favorite sweatpants to a party. Don’t straighten your hair if you don’t want to. Most importantly, don’t make people feel bad about something harmless. We look forward to one day a year where we have an excuse to dress however we’d like. It is your call to take it or not to take it. It is your call, too, to decide you don’t need an excuse.– Zoe Azuma Martin is a Bard High School Early College graduate currently studying literature and writing at the New School. She lives in Brooklyn and loves her bearded dog Stella. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @ZoeAzuma.