Did You See That Costume? How Some People Wear Their Stereotypes.

October 31st, 2011 | Categories: Gender

Costumes are one of the best parts of Halloween. Sure there is candy, ghosts and ghouls, but the costumes are priceless. There are plenty of places to get candy year round. And if you are interested in ghosts and ghouls just watch Ghost Whisperer. You can even buy a cookbook with recipes from the ghosts themselves!

In contrast to the year-round availability of candy and ghosts, people only dress up in costumes (at this kind of mass scale in the United States) once a year. Costumes people wear on Halloween would be worthy of institutionalization (or perhaps arrest) if they were worn at other times of the year. On Halloween we even let children, who we otherwise would require to be prim and proper, to dress in anything they want no matter how disgusting or inappropriate. Consider that blood sucking vampires and cheerleaders are modest examples of what I am talking about here.

So costumes are my favorite part of Halloween. But their entertainment value comes at some cost.

The female costumes are qualitatively different from the male in two ways. Just check out these links for what I mean.

The male costumes are a variety of silly (doggie bag), fairy, heroic (fireman, superhero), classic (vampire), perverse (pimp), edible (hot dog).

But of the 412 female costumes, 75% are tight, short, busty, and revealing in general. Only 25% (105 costumes) were NOT and that includes six of the SAME crayon costume each in different colors and six “inspirational” costumes of nuns, angels, and such.

Of the kid’s costumes the ratio is better but still atrocious considering the type of costumes we are talking about. About 150 of the 278 are tight, short, busty, and revealing in general and these are kid’s costumes! They have a separate link for teen costumes. Of the ones that are more modest, these include four angel costumes and six of the similar crayon costumes sold to adult females.

Lest you think this male/female distinction in costumes is isolated to this particular website, check out girls’ Halloween costumes at Party City and Costume Express.

When I look at these links, I see unnecessarily sexualized and unimaginative costumes for women whereas in male’s costumes I see a much greater variety of style and content.

Don’t get me wrong, the costumes are still my favorite part of Halloween. I’m just wondering aloud why the female costumes – even for kids – need to be so sexual. A person might argue that adult females prefer these types of costumes and the costume manufacturers are just responding to demand. However, this argument doesn’t explain the kid costumes. My daughter loves her princess dresses but she actually prefers the long ones because she loves twirling and the feel of it on her legs (so does my son actually).

Also, why are these costumes for females, especially female girls, so unimaginative? They are basically different versions of the same four costumes: 1) short fluffy skirt/ dress. 2) short tight skirt/ dress 3) tight pants or tights with or without revealing long skirt/dress. 4) revealing low cut top with long revealing skirt/dress. What happened to imagination, pretend, and fantasy (the G version)?

So why these sexualized and uninspired costumes for girls? Are parents- both male and female- imposing their own stereotypical expectations of what women are supposed to be on their children? I can just hear them talking now, “Oh, how cute, my daughter looks [as a little slutty version of this cartoon character Daphne from Scooby Doo].”

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter why these particular costumes for women and girls are produced or who chooses to purchase them and for what reasons. Regardless, when children and adults put on their costumes for Halloween they wear their stereotypes. I’m apparently not the only one who sees this as a problem. Check out CNN’s recent article about Halloween costumes.

When my four-year old daughter wants to wear a princess costume that even has a long skirt/ dress I dissuade her. I prefer that she doesn’t wear the stereotype that all girls have to grow up to be princesses on Halloween. I tell her she doesn’t need to wear a princess dress for Halloween because Halloween is for dressing in something unusual, something you don’t get to be everyday. Since she knows she’s a princess everyday because “she is kind and brave and nice to her friends,” she doesn’t need to be that on Halloween. Halloween is about expanding your ideas of what you could be. So, I’d rather her wear her dreams on Halloween than her stereotypes.

This year she’s a superhero. Last year she was a dragon. The year before she was the Pixar robot Wall-E. And in her first year she was a pea in a pod. I look forward to next year because, despite my seemingly disparaging comments in this post, I just love the costume part of Halloween.

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  1. Sara
    February 22nd, 2012 at 19:49

    I definitely agree that many costumes for women/teen girls are all the same with minor variations. While looking for a Halloween costume this past halloween with my friend, we realized that there were not many options if we wanted to wear a more modest costume. All of the ones we saw online, even for things like angels and princesses, were extremely revealing and promoted the idea that women should be objectified. It seems like boys wear funny costumes or costumes of people they admire (like superman), but girls wear what society thinks they should be (princesses, angels, etc.).

  2. Kailyn
    February 24th, 2012 at 12:01

    I completely agree with this. Most female costumes even the ones for children are often too revealing and sexual. When I was a child and teenager, I often chose “boy” costumes for Halloween such as scary movie killers like Ghostface and Michael Myers and heroes like Zorro because I thought they were cool and I never enjoyed dressing up in revealing outfits. The sexualization of costumes is especially concerning in high school. A funny joke in the film Mean Girls suggests that Halloween is the one night of the year where girls can dress as promiscuously and show as much skin as they want without being judged for it. Although this movie was very humorous, this suggestion seemed to match up to my experiences in high school where my most of my girl peers would live by this rule.

  3. Nicole Brodbeck
    February 29th, 2012 at 11:15

    I agree on both accounts that girl costumes are produced in a sexual manner for the sole fact that woman want to look like that for halloween. It is the one night a year where anyone can be someone or something they are not to attract attention. The more drastic the change the more attention they will receive. This statement even goes for children. I know in most schools by me they have contests for best costume. Ultimately the costume manufacturers are just trying to supply the customers with what they want. Just like the previous comments ahead women/teen girls admire looking more sexual because they can get away with it one night of the year. Men also play a huge role in these costumes because if women did not feel the need to be attractive all the time maybe it would not be stereotypical for a woman to dress that way. Women feel pressured to please her loved one because that is what is always asked of her. This stereotype falls underneath the gender category we talked about in class and how women are expected to look and act a certain way.

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