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Halloween Dress-Up: Sexy or Just Slutty?

Halloween is starting to scare me.

Yes, I know the real point of Halloween is a good scare. Its pagan roots as a harvest festival aside, Halloween has been Americanized to encourage children to dress in poorly-designed outfits and wander their neighborhoods in the dark begging neighbors for candy under the threat of retaliation.

OK, so maybe that’s a slightly cynical description (albeit a scarily accurate one). I know most kids, my own included, look forward to Halloween, and a put a lot of thought into what costume they select. Unfortunately, as with most things, we Americans have taken what was sort of a quaint kids’ holiday and turned it into something kinky.

I’m talking about the costume selections available for women. At the risk of sounding geriatric, I remember a time when it was just as OK for a girl to dress up as a witch or a monster or a devil as it was to be a princess, a cowgirl or a cheerleader.

But somewhere along the way, the cheerleaders took over. Now, the majority of the  Halloween costume options available for adult women involve fishnet stockings and push-up bras. Yes, male readers, I realize that doesn’t sound like a major problem.

But if societal norms called for you to show up at Halloween parties dressed in Speedos or with shirts open to your navels, you might have an issue with it, right? It’s not exactly a self-esteem builder for the middle-aged dad of four to have to keep his gut sucked in all night while surrounded by slightly more buff guys in their 20s.  

I did a little bit of research to see how sexy and silly women’s costumes have become, or, to see what alternate options might be out there. Maybe there are positive role models represented in women’s costumes, I thought hopefully.

Not so much.

A Google search for women’s Halloween costumes found numerous sexy witches,  the requisite French maids and naughty nurses, and even a “Racy Red Riding Hood” and an “Officer Bombshell.”

And then things start to get a little disturbing. I also found an adult women’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle outfit, pictured with thigh-high boots (sold separately), a “Lucky Ladybug” costume, a “Sexy Snow White” and a “Sexy Strawberry Shortcake” outfit. I even found a very weird trend of sexy fruit and vegetables, my personal favorite being a “Sexy Watermelon.”

Far and away the most ridiculous one I found, however, has to be the  “Sexy Nemo costume.” Yes, as in “Finding Nemo,” the children’s movie about a lost clownfish and his father.

So not only have we taken strong female role models like nurses and police officers and reduced them to sexual stereotypes, now we’re going after children’s movie characters that have no sexual attributes AT ALL and trying to objectify them as sex objects too.

Both my husband and I worked at a small costume design company in Pittsburgh for a few years. Collaborating on new costume designs was among our duties, and I was always frustrated that despite the great talents of the design staff, there were limited options for women’s costumes.

Costumes for women are tricky, the lead designer explained, because costumes that made women look “ugly”  like a cavewoman or a crone, typically didn’t sell. But costumes that made women look cute, like fairies and butterflies were just as tricky. Put bluntly, not every woman is a size 6. It’s not as easy to look cute when you’re a normal-sized woman trying to cram yourself into a costume designed for a runway model. It’s bad enough we’re all expected to fit into skinny jeans; we should get a day off from the fashion nightmare that is women’s clothing on Halloween, right?

Essentially, the costume makers are trying to give women what they think women want.  I suppose being the one who shows up at a Halloween party dressed as an ugly hag surrounded by a bunch of cleavage-baring witches and pretty princesses could be a bit of a self-esteem issue for some women.  I’m not a psychologist, but is there some deeper issue when women want to dress outrageously slutty as their first option? Is it just harmless fun, and exploring one’s sexier side? Perhaps. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to put on something that fit a normal-sized woman’s body and still have fun at a costume party?

In any event, it doesn’t look like the trend of slutty/sexy Halloween costumes is going away anytime soon. I get the appeal of a naughty costume for a woman who doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to show her wild side. I do. But when we start straying into children’s characters (MALE children’s characters in the case of Nemo) to find costume ideas, it takes Halloween past the realm of scary and into the downright creepy.

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  • .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Thu, 27.10.11 at 05:44PM

    My beef since the 1980’s .  It will never get old how they want to dress our daughters!  Good article.  We need to keep this in the forefront

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