Erica Chung was trying to decide what to wear for Halloween when she saw a strapless red dress hanging, forgotten, in her closet.

A lightbulb went off: Why not dress it up with a little silver ribbon and stenciling and turn it into a Coca-Cola can?

“I decided I would be my favorite brand for Halloween,” the 28-year-old, Houston-based marketing manager said. She got to work with fabric tape, scissors and iron-on transfer paper and soon had a costume that resembled a classic red Coke can, complete with silver trim for the metal top and bottom. Her boyfriend complemented her by dressing as a bottle of whiskey.

Coca-Cola-themed Halloween costumes have taken on many different forms over the years. Specialty retailers sell licensed costumes that range from one-size-fits-all tunics in the shape of the iconic contour bottle, to 1950s-era Coca-Cola "Yes Girl" costumes with gingham aprons, to retro vending machines with mesh peepholes that pretend to dispense Coke and Sprite.

Several do-it-yourself websites offer step-by-step instructions on how to make a Diet Coke dress or transform into a soda jerk with a red-and-white paper hat and apron. And fans like Chung have used their own ingenuity to make costumes that fit their own personal tastes and shapes.

In recent years, the international “Share a Coke” campaign has inspired adult trick-or-treaters looking for unique and fun group costume ideas. One group of longtime pals from the Philippines with a tradition of dressing alike on Halloween used a 3D printer and laminating machine to create personalized “Share a Coke” labels with each trick-or-treater's name. They used elastic string to hold up the labels and added rippled red paper for the bottle-cap hats. Last year, a group of high school students and their teachers from Cincinnati also devised homemade costumes around the "Share a Coke" theme and took home a prize for their creativity. Candid snapshots of friends wearing "Share a Coke" costumes at parties and other October events can be found on social media sites like Pinterest and Twitter.

More than 171 million Americans plan to celebrate Halloween in 2016, with total spending on costumes, decorations, and candy expected to reach an all-time high of $8.4 billion, according to an annual survey led by the National Retail Federation. Seven in 10 consumers plan to hand out candy, and nearly half will decorate their homes or dress in costume, NRF reports.

While many adults favor time-tested costumes like witches, pirates and superheroes, a small percentage will turn to current events like the presidential election for inspiration, according to NRF.

For many people, most of the fun of dressing up lies in visualizing and then putting together a creative costume, notes Utpal Dholakia, a professor of marketing at Rice University, in an article examining Halloween's gradual transformation from a one-day children's event to a multi-day festival with parties and other events that encourage adults to dress in costume.

"The most creative Halloween costumes, the ones that receive the attention of everyone and which garner the most social media exposure, are often created with very little money but with a lot of imagination," Dholakia explains.

Creative costumes aren't just limited to grown-ups—or even the 21st century, for that matter. Just ask Sharla Fritz, an author and lecturer from the Chicago area, who along with her younger brother came up with her own Coca-Cola themed costume as a pre-teen in the 1970s.

Coke Pants

Sharla Fritz 

Fritz's father worked as the manager of a local radio station and sometimes came home with fun promotional materials. One year, she recalled, he brought home pairs of pants etched in a checkerboard pattern with the Coca-Cola logo and the company's current advertising slogan, "It's the Real Thing."

"My brother and I came up with the idea to wear them for Halloween, accessorizing them with cardboard, bottle-shaped shirts, and bottle-cap hats," she explained in a blog post in which she shared the memory and old photo. "We thought we were pretty cool."