Friday, October 21, 2011

Halloween, Sexy Syndrome, and Costume Alternatives

When I taught at the university level, the theatre program I worked in often had a show that would open around the last week of October.  We regularly had an evening performance the night of Halloween, and many students would show up in costume with plans to go out and "party"after the presentation.

I remember walking to my car in the parking lot on those nights, seeing young ladies with devil horns and high heels, or cat ears and mini-skirts, or angel wings and bikini tops.  Almost overwhelmingly, these costumes were rather revealing and a bit salacious...  Now, I know these were college-age kids and that's what college-age kids do.  They're not under their parent's roof anymore, and they're developing a sense of self.  Part of that is exploring boundaries and learning what it means to be an adult.  And that means developing one's own sense of gender empowerment (or not) and identification (or not).

At least, that's what they think they're doing.

There has developed quite a controversy over the last few years about gender.  Many are feeling that Halloween, in particular, has become a season of female objectification--that the costumes for women that are most popular are the ones that are the most revealing and "sexy" in nature.  Many lament the holiday as they see woman after woman dressing up as a "Sexy Snow White" or "Sexy Nurse" or "Sexy Pirate".  These people ask, "Why is there such a preponderance of sexy costumes for women around Halloween?  When did every costume for females start to require fishnets and high heels?"

I was contemplating posting a long and rambling commentary on the empowerment/disempowerment of women, the presence of misogyny in our culture, and the emasculation of men...  I actually spent an hour trying to wrap my head around a cohesive, well-thought-out statement about the whole thing.

And I can't.  The most I can say is, "As a professional costumer, I think there's a lot more out there that we're missing when it comes to Halloween."  I scrapped my long and overly effusive "book" on what I was feeling and why so I can actually get to the point of why I'm making this post.

I found a website that I like.  It's called Take Back Halloween at It's a guide to the creation of different costumes for Halloween that don't focus on the "sexy qualities" so prevalent in so many of the costumes for women that are on the market today.  It tries to offer alternatives by providing guides to how to make your own costumes.  It doesn't sell anything, it simply provides links to different places to purchase the items they suggest.  It's actually sponsored by the Real History Project, what their press release calls "a non-profit organization devoted to cultivating a grassroots, pop culture approach to women's history".

These guides include Queens from a variety of cultures including Egyptian, Minoan, Biblical, Sumerian, and Celtic.  There are "Glamour Grrls" including Mae West, Rita Hayworth, and Josephine Baker.  There are Goddesses like Isis, Mama Quilla, Athena, and Brighid.  Finally, there are looks for other Notable Women including Susan B. Anthony, Lizzie Borden, Sojourner Truth, and Sappho...

Albeit, you may need to explain who you are if you go out, but everyone else will look like the Spice Girls so you'll stand apart from the crowd!  And maybe, in the end, you'll feel a little more comfortable while still looking fabulous, allowing you to enjoy your holiday a lot more.

Live Life with Relish!


  1. I am really excited to put together a real costume this year for the first time in....far too long! I've settled on Rosie the Riveter, and I am SO excited about it. I'll be able to be feminine and strong without broadcasting my lady parts that need not be shared. Yeay for strong, historical women still making a statement today!

  2. I love the Rosie look! Have fun, Megan!!! : )


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