Halloween is one of the most commercialized days of the year, so it comes as no surprise that a lot of marketing of various products goes together with it. An astounding amount of all sorts of costumes are available for people young and old who want to enjoy the scariest day of the year. On Halloween you can be anything from a traditional vampire or zombie to a sexy Ebola nurse. Some costumes are scary, some are funny and some are downright inappropriate. But the question is who decides what is inappropriate?
Costumes are a huge part of Halloween and they are available in many places. Costume store sales spike at the end of October and so do the costume sales on websites such as Amazon and Ebay. A big part of selling costumes is, of course, the marketing of them. Specifically the marketing of costumes towards women raises a lot of questions about inappropriate costumes. Most costumes for women start with the title ‘sexy’ whereas the costumes targeted towards men seem to be more realistic and ‘appropriate’ in a more traditional meaning of the word.
For example, I and my co-author Miya decided to do some good old fashioned journalistic investigating and went to amazon.uk to take a look at the first ten costumes available for women. We typed in Halloween costumes for women and were not surprised by the results. Over half of the costumes available were short skirts with corsets, no matter what the theme or character: Alice in Wonderland, Skeleton, Day of the Dead, Nurse, and my personal favorite –Sexy Santa. We then searched for costumes for men. Every single costume that came up in the first page was a full suit costume and was actually scary –well, minus the flasher Granny costume… The point is, the majority of costumes marketed towards women could be considered as ‘slutty’, whatever that is. Most of these costumes also lack the detail and good quality that their male counterpart costumes seem to have.
Now, we would never suggest that a revealing costume is not okay, but there are many people, men and women alike, who talk about things like ‘Halloween hoes’ and ‘Halloween sluts’. Come the last weekend of October, Instagram and Facebook feeds fill with pictures of girls posing in groups, wearing matching risqué costumes. This year, Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad seemed to be the go-to costume choice of about every third girl at any given party. Is it because dressing provocatively gets attention and likes on Instagram or do girls, like Cindy Lauper puts it, just want to have fun?
The problem that women face is the double standards when it comes to Halloween costumes. The outfits that are marketed towards us are short and fitting, even when we want to dress up as a pumpkin, which is anything but short and fitting. What is a slutty pumpkin anyway? Still, we get criticized for buying and wearing these costumes. And why? After all, it takes a lot of self-confidence to wear a more revealing costume.
The point is the message is conflicting and can be applied to all days, not just Halloween. The general image of a woman the media puts out is definitely sexy, but society expects women to be innocent and modest at the same time. In terms of Halloween costumes we’re being offered the ‘Sexy Angel’ costume but also simultaneously expected to look like a Catholic nun.
‘Sexy’ as a concept is also a bit difficult to define, because it represents so many different things for different people, and ‘slutty’ on the other hand has a negative stigma to it, but necessarily shouldn’t. It’s a word that gets tossed around on daily bases like ‘happy’ or ‘thank you’ but is not as clear in meaning as the examples offered above. For most women, I believe, it’s not about impressing others with revealing clothes or beautiful make-up or even that perfect slutty pumpkin outfit that you rocked on Halloween, but it’s about self-confidence and positive self-image.
In the end, a costume is really just a mask for one day. Whatever costume you choose it´s a way to take on a different identity or express yourself in a different way. Everyone chooses a costume for a reason – maybe it´s funny or you want to dress up as a movie character you love or you want to be unrecognizable behind a scary mask. Or maybe you want to wear something sexy that you wouldn´t usually get the chance to wear. Obviously not all clothing is appropriate for every occasion, but on Halloween, almost anything goes.
To quote Mean Girls, the most iconic teen movie of the 00´s, ¨In Girl World, Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.¨ In the movie, Halloween is shown as a type of free pass, a day exempt from the social rules that apply other days of the year. Why not make all days like Halloween and let girls wear what they want whenever they want, revealing or not? In the name of fairness, however, we support more revealing Halloween costumes for men too and hope not to see any sexy clowns this year.
This article was co-authored by Danielle Amorim and Miya Ison