Halloween really is not what it used to be. It starts in September or that’s when stores start putting out items adorned with pumpkins, ghosts and black cats. It has also apparently become a time to flaunt your little girl’s sexuality should she go out trick or treating in certain costumes.
It almost makes me feel nostalgic for Disney Princesses. (Almost; more on these later.)
2. HalloweenCostumes.com’s “Devilina” get-up is very similar to “Devil Diva” but with a ballerina twist.
3. Wal-Mart also offered the “Naughty Leopard” costume (it’s been removed from shelves after an uproar). The only giveaway that this costume was based on an animal is a headband with large black ears and a few leopard spots on parts of a purple dress.
4. Party City’s ”Precious Leopard” costume continues with the lace-up bodice theme but with hot pink ribbons and far more obvious leopard spots.
5. The off-the-shoulder sleeves of Target’s fluorescent pink “Peg the Pirate“ costume should lead many a parent to insist that their daughter cover up with a sweater on October 31.
7. A black and bright bubblegum pink “Punk Skeleton” costume (another offering from Target) outfits a girl in a tight-fitting shirt, tights and a raggedy semi-see-through skirt.
8. Amazon’s “Funky Punk Skeleton Toddler Costume“ is not that different (well, it is black, neon blue, yellow and pink) and specifically geared to the two-year-old set.
9. This “Zebra Toddler Costume” from Amazon really makes me wonder (along with the above-noted leopard costumes) why is it so hard to create an animal costume that doesn’t include a skimpy, flippy skirt and an off-the-shoulder top?
10. If you didn’t know that the “Sweet Cupcake Toddler Costume“ was supposed to make your child look like a dessert, you’d think she was possibly trying out to be a mini Rockette.
I can already hear someone saying I (and a few others) are being too stern and serious and reading sexism into silly Halloween costumes for girls. Commenting on the “Naughty Leopard” costume in Jezebel, Lindy West points out that that costume is really just a “dress with a dumb ear-hat” (as could be said for most of the nine other costumes just noted).
On its own, “Naughty Leopard” costume does not have “anything remotely sexual” about it, West says. What’s curious is why whoever created the costume had to dub it “Naughty Leopard” instead of something more descriptive like (the admittedly lame) “Big-Eared Leopard.”
“Naughty” has, West writes, come to be a Halloween term that is applied to women and “means ‘sexy, but like a baby.’” That is, using the word to describe a girl’s Halloween costume is (1) a covert attempt to sexualize children and also (2) disturbing statement about adult sexuality in general and about women in particular. Naughtiness, after all, “is literally the #1 least sexy trait for an adult human to exhibit in the bedroom—less sexy, even, than diarrhea or constantly-sounding-an-airhorn,” West comments.
West wonders “why do we cling to grown-up naughtiness like this.” One reason is rooted in those princesses — Belle, Cinderella, Tatiana, etc. — brought to us by Disney. You can find plenty of costumes for Their Royal Highnesses, all of which are pretty much guaranteed to be flouncy, satiny, longish and not-too-revealing; to be “safe” and okay options for girls.
Or are they? For all that dressing up in the Rapunzel costumes (and the other princess ones I perused while assembling the list above) may not make your toddler look sexy, enrobing her as a princess with a tiara, gloves, jewels, dainty shoes, etc., is still following the same principle (such as it is) that gave us the “Naughty Leopard,” “Devil Diva” and other costumes. These girlish get-ups promote the worn-out notion that to be female calls for being sexually attractive or offering an excess show of femininity (and, if you’re a Disney Princess, showcasing your ultimately marriage-and child-birthing- ability).
As a mother, I would (as you may have guessed at this point) never let my child wear any of these commercially produced costumes. When I was a kid, my parents always refused to buy any. My mother (before she went back to work full-time) sewed costumes for my sister and me and I made some of my own. They never won prizes for best of this or that. What was enjoyable was showing off my mother’s handiwork and feeling proud about the work that my mom or I had put into making something. That was (my main concern as an elementary school kid) fun and also — dare I say, at the risk of making a political statement about Halloween costumes — empowering.