Take Back Halloween: Your Costume Name Doesn’t Have To Feature The Word “Sexy”

Clothing and Cosplay GeekMom

Last week I was browsing one of those pop-up Halloween stores in what was probably an abandoned Borders with a friend who apparently hasn’t tried to purchase a Halloween costume in some time. Our conversation mirrored the scene in a Duane Reade in the Sex and the City movie:

Miranda: The only two choices for women: witch and sexy kitten.
Carrie : You just said a mouthful there, sister.

It gets worse every year, and the sizes of the Sexy Fill-In-The-Blank costumes are drifting down into the sizes for girls of an age that should never be described as sexy. Although I always make my kids’ costumes, we do like to wander the Halloween stores for inspiration. My son was faced with massive walls of choices: gobs of superhoes, movie heroes and villains, cartoon characters, and more. All my daughter wanted was to see what they offered in Star Wars costumes for girls. The answer? Not one. And not due to lack of selection. Here’s a portion of the wall of Star Wars costumes:

Wall of Star Wars costumes. Not one girl. Photo credit: Ruth Suehle

If you’re an adult woman, it’s worse. In the aforementioned trip with a friend to a different Halloween store, I had a hard time finding any costume for a woman that wasn’t a sexed-up version of the character. If you actually want to look like a character, you can forget it.

But there are two solutions. One, if sexy kitten/policewoman/fairy is your thing, then go right ahead. I decided to be She-Ra this year for our 80s-themed party. She-Ra happens to wear a strapless white dress and knee-high gold boots. Of course, it turns out that even She-Ra can be sexed up–when searching for images to base my pattern on, I kept coming across one that mainly consisted of fishnets, a garter belt, and a bustier.

Plan B: Take Back Halloween. The site’s mission:

We love Halloween. We really love Halloween. We think it’s cool that there’s one day a year when people can dress up as anything they want. What we don’t think is cool is that increasingly women are only supposed to dress up as one thing: “Sexy _____” (fill in the blank).

And their advice:

  • Celebrate your heritage. North America is full of people from every single part of the world. But no matter where we’re from, we all have amazing queens, heroines, and goddesses in our cultural backgrounds.
  • Channel the goddess. It’s a great way to explore the female divine–or just wear an awesome costume. (Use care if you’re stepping outside your own heritage.)
  • Be Queen for a Day. To heck with princesses. Be a queen.
  • Honor your personal heroine. Who inspires you? Who fascinates you?
  • Try on some red carpet glamour. Dressing to the nines is fun. When else do you get to wear elbow length gloves and feather boas? Unless you’re a movie star in real life, Halloween is your chance.

My plan for She-Ra was to have a Dragon*Con costume already ready next year that didn’t involve underwear from another century and ten layers of fabric in the Atlanta heat. But I love the idea of choosing historic figures–particularly a gigantic queen gown. And who doesn’t love a good feather boa?

My kids, for what it’s worth, teamed up and chose Mario and Princess Peach. Regular Princess Peach, in a gown so puffy, it took five yards of fabric to make in the four-year-old size.

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18 thoughts on “Take Back Halloween: Your Costume Name Doesn’t Have To Feature The Word “Sexy”

  1. Glad your family has found a solution. I am not the best seamstress and so creating a costume from scratch is out of the question. But I am creating a steampunk adventuress costume for myself based on pieces found at the Goodwill and revamped. It’s been harder for my 16yo daughter. She wants to be a fairy- but not a sexy fairy. We haven’t had much luck yet.

    1. Sorry, but when in doubt for a Fairy costume you could always check out the Formal Wear section at any used store. Wedding dress, hideous brides maid dress so long as it’s short sleeved and has a decent neck line….hack off the bottom in a zig zag (make it knee-ish length, leave it straggly) rip out the tulle if there is a ton of it and viola fairy 🙂

    2. Maybe add wings to a really pretty dress from the consignment or thrift shop? (See my previous post this morning on that!) Add wings, and fairy!

    3. Goodwill is my Halloween go to. For a fairy costume that’s not TOO frou-frou, find an old prom/bridesmaid dress that fits well in a color she likes. Take pinking shears and “handkerchief” the hemline, then find some gauzy, scarf-like material in a corresponding color and cut into strips, tack these with just a couple of stitches into the hem and around the sleeves. If its a sleeveless dress, make elastic armbands that fit her upper arms and tack gauzy strips to those. Add wings and sparkly make-up.

  2. The advertising really picked up the right keywords for this post. It’s selling me, among others, sexy strawberry and sexy tootsie roll costumes. Nice of them to prove your point.

  3. Another idea: use the “sexy” storebought costumes as a base and make the costume your own. This year I bought a costume called “Sexy Warrior Princess.” It was obviously an unlicensed (and pretty good) knockoff of a Xena, Warrior Princess costume. I’ve added short brown leggings, felt armbands, and a foam chakram, and plan to wear the ensemble with flat boots. The manufacturer can call the costume whatever they want. I am *Xena*, Warrior Princess, forged in the heat of battle! 8)

  4. Thank you for this great article. My family already had their costumes lined up for the year as my daughters wanted to be Star Wars characters. Both of them ended up being a different version of Princess Leia. (because, you know, there is only one woman in space). We had to make them ourselves though.

    I will say, amazon does have some selection if you have to buy a costume and you can get it in two days with free returns if you have an amazon mom or prime account.

    I found that site already through other friends and I must say, it is excellent. I am pretty sure it is going to inspire next years costumes.

    Now the real irony. I scrolled to the bottom of this article to comment and there was a banner add for costumes. Every Single One started with the word Sexy. Sexy Black Swan, Sexy Tootsie Roll, Sexy Tiger. Its almost like the Internet went out of its way to prove you were right.

  5. I discovered this site last night through CraftZine. Followed Wired to your blog. Good reading.

    I’m vaguely amused that the ad is for sexy costumes. Sheesh!

    Thanks for doing your good work!

  6. Last year when I ran into the Sexy Nemo (yes, the animated young boy clown fish), I sort of snapped, and started,a href=”http://pinterest.com/raqwinchester/sexy-costume-travesty/”> collecting costumes that have been inappropriately sexified (what? that’s totally a word).

    So far, I think Sexy Oompa Loompa wins.

  7. I sent the link to my sister, who is quite proud of the fact that she taught her husband to sew and promises to help us after we get a (not-so-secret-surprise) sewing machine for Christmas. She’s been involved in cosplay and LARP for a long time and made me a very awesome greatcoat for an Uncle Fester costume a few Halloweens back.

  8. Yeah the women’s costumes are bad my personal dumbest costume is the Sexy Mario (with the Mario Mustache!) Really a video game plumber in a short skirt, who thinks of these things.

    At least they aren’t from the costume store in the one BtVS episode.

  9. When I was a kid we tied bed sheets around our necks and painted our faces. It was cheap, But all I wanted was the candy and did not really care about some costume that cost as much as a good book or shoes. XD I hope someone will e-mail these company’s and tell them we want some stuff for women and girls that’s not “sexed” up. Verity is the spice of life.

  10. Or you can go the tech route and peruse ideas over at a Make or instructables site. I’m working on my LED jellyfish http://www.instructables.com/id/Halloween-LED-Jellyfish-Costume/ this year. It need not be as complex as the instructable shows–I initially used just the batteries that come with the raver necklaces and you could probably go as low tech as attaching them to a headband.

    Ours is a very dark neighborhood, so having Mom lit up big time makes the kids a lot safer. We’re also handing out finger LEDs and glow bracelets this year.

    My daughter has figured out that sexy=cold, so this year she’s assembled her own Cheshire cat costume from pieces found on the web, without any bare skin.

  11. I went to a Ren Fest and I ended up buying my 9 month old a Princess/Gypsy type costume to match her brother’s jester costume. That was hard for me to do. . . at least it wasn’t a Disney Princess, but a Ren Fest Princess, right? I took it home and looked more closely — um, it was a 2 piece baring a whole lot of little cute baby skin. I think my little girl happens to be adorable in it with her little pot belly sticking out, but I’m soooo uncomfortable with the idea that I don’t know if I’m going to go through with it. She’ll obviously wear a onsie underneath for warmth as well, but it’s the idea that creeps me out a little.

  12. Thanks for posting that website Take Back Halloween.

    I may not be a mother, but I am a lover of all things Halloween. It becomes increasingly depressing every year when I look at the wall of costumes and see more and more “sexy” looks for kids and less “cool” costumes.

    I would love to have more Star Wars options open to girls and women. If you’re lucky you can find a few online, but never in store. :/

    I’ve been making my own costumes for 3 years now because of the sexy walls at party stores. I couldn’t stand it. $59.99 for a sexy costume, or a cheap polyester nun that will only last a day? I’d rather spend half the money and make something myself that I’ll love.

    Anyway, I couldn’t agree more with your statements. Good to know that I’m not the only one out there that thinks Halloween commercialism is going crazy.

  13. Indian and Tamil shops are a good source for princess or fairy dresses for little girls on a budget. They can also provide you with a lot of other nice fabric, clothes and items to adorn costumes of any kind.

    Being from Germany we have the sexy costume issue mostly around carnival, since over Halloween people really tend to stick to the scary ones and I see a lot of zombies and mummies, male or female running around.
    One of the best costumes I ever saw was completely genderless: a guy at university dressed up as a shower.. with a selfmade harness with a shower curtain hanging around him … dressed in a bathtowel and with rubberduckies glued to his shoulder. Of course this is only suitable for warm environments …. though one could wear a bathrobe… … and slightly uncomfortable when sitting down.. but to be able to draw the curtains on a crowded party can actually increase the flirt-factor. I will absolutely do that one day.

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