Maybe I didn’t get the memo or I have never paid much attention, but when did the whole sexy Halloween costume industry take over? It appears there is no sort of guiding premise as to what otherwise innocuous costume can be sexed up. Everything is in bounds: sexy nurses, sexy teachers, sexy devils, sexy cats, sexy nursery rhyme characters, sexy hamburgers (For real, it’s a thing. I can’t make this up.) and on and on. I get that Halloween is supposed to be frivolous and that part of wearing a costume is that you get to be someone else for a few hours and why not have some fun with it. But … browsing online for a costume that is appropriate to wear to my child’s classroom party has proven incredibly cringeworthy.
Personally, my Halloween costumes have always been either cutesy (think Velma from Scooby-Doo) or thrown together the day of from clothing in my closet (think cowgirl or hobo). I also, in a highly forgettable moment, showed up to a costume party in my mid-20s dressed as Harry Potter. I wore round-framed glasses and a pixie haircut at the time and had the requisite trousers and shirt in my closet. A $12 cape and an eyeliner lightning bolt completed the look. (If you are looking to dim your dating prospects, I can highly recommend going as 12-year-old wizard.)
The year I dressed up as a pirate, my costume consisted of a red handkerchief tied on my head, an eye patch and an oversized “poet” shirt. (You know the kind.) It specifically did not include a corset top, pleather skirt or fishnets.
I miss the ’80s, when we all wore terrible costumes that were basically a character printed on a plastic bag with arm and neck holes. Those costumes were egalitarian – the only difference between the Superman and Wonder Woman costumes was who was printed on the front. Otherwise, same strong plastic odor, same shapeless plastic bag, same vision-obstructing flimsy plastic mask.
Those costumes were produced by Ben Cooper Inc., which had brokered a deal with Walt Disney in the 1940s. That allowed the company to license iconic characters from movies and the burgeoning TV industry. The costumes were cheap – $2 to $5 – and distributed widely. I recall picking my very anachronistic Laura Ingalls Wilder costume out at Kmart – because nothing says pioneer girl quite like a brittle plastic costume.
This year, Americans are expected to spend $3.2 billion on Halloween costumes. That’s a lot of pirate corsets and fishnet stockings.
Don’t even get me started on pet costumes.