Remember when Halloween was meant to be a holiday that you used to dress up and scare people? I went shopping for a costume today with my boyfriend and a good friend because we are going to be attending the zombie walk next Saturday. At first we thought that we might buy costumes and just douse them in blood. However, when we approached the female section of the costume shops it was clear that the majority of the female costumes would not work for our purposes. The reason: they were far too short and revealing to be of any use when we are going to be spending the afternoon outside in Canada.
It became apparent that Halloween costumes are another tool with which to objectify women. All of the adult female costumes are low cut and designed to be sexy over scary. We looked at the female versions of Freddy Kruger and Jason both of these costumes were low cut mini-dresses that we so short if you bent over the whole universe would get a good shot of your underwear. They also conform to a certain body type, most of the costumes only come in small to large, and extra-large is available if you’re lucky. I am a size 14 which is supposed to fit into their large or extra-large category but every time I have tried on one of these costumes I have been unable to fit into it or it has been skin tight. I always feel uncomfortable in them and I know that being smooshed into the outfit is terribly unflattering. So my personal experience with these costumes has always been negative.
The other problematic area with these costumes is the young girl’s version of the costumes, which are often very similar to the adult costumes. They have an extra inch or two, maybe, in the skirt and the tops are not cut in a super low vee but the sexy style of the costumes is still the same. These girls are being taught from a young age that their Halloween costumes are meant to be attractive instead of scary or fun. We also saw sections for teens/tween’s in which the female costumes had found a medium between child and adult. In these versions the skirts were similar lengths to the adult, which were mostly very small, and the tops had begun to dip into a deep vee but there was a white or black band that covered the cleavage of the young woman. So these costumes again give young girls the idea that they are meant to be objects. Their costumes are designed to be pleasing to the male gaze.
We found out when talking to one of the store clerks who was helping us that most of the costumes that are now produced are produced by the lingerie companies which explains why they are so seductive looking instead of fun or scary. To me Halloween is a day where I can dress up as the most fun thing I can think of and not be myself for the night. It should not just be about finding another way to dress for men’s pleasure and gaze. I think that by mass producing costumes that objectify women it is another way that we are being taught the ‘right’ way to act. That way being that we should always be deferring our comfort level for the pleasure of the men surrounding us, we are meant to be looked at in a way that reproduces the idea that women are only meant for sex. As well if you do not fit into this certain body shape then you will have a better chance in the men’s section because the female costumes are only for a certain type, so they are not even remotely inclusive of female body structure. So, I am opting out of our mass produced Halloween costumes and am making my own from old clothes that will keep me warm and covered and scary when I am out shambling the streets next Saturday dressed as a zombie.