Violence, Sex Influence Costumes

Amanda Newby  & Camry Thomas
Staff Writers

Halloween: the one night a year you could be whoever you want… or could you? For the last few years, including this one, the store-bought Halloween costumes come in two forms: scary and sexy. Boys looked like their favorite on-screen serial killer, and girls get dressed like their favorite cuddly animal, minus half the clothing. What does this say about the way that companies market costumes?

High school is a precarious stage of life to be in. High schoolers certainly aren’t children, but they aren’t exactly adults either. So, when it comes to Halloween, it may be difficult to find which section of costumes is a better fit.

Theater teacher Mr. Miller, who has his fair share of experience with costuming, said, “Costumes marketed towards kids and teens nowadays are focused more on Super Heroes, instead of traditional costumes like mummies and Frankenstein.”  

“The costumes have become more revealing and more raunchier. It’s becoming more about selling the product, and not about selling the character.” Miller added.

For adult women, it seems that any regular costume has a sexy equivalent. On Party City’s website, there is a sexy costumes section that includes a debaucherous “Adult After School Special School Girl” costume, an unconventional “Adult Ravishing Peacock” costume, a potentially controversial “Adult Native American Princess Body Shaper” costume (as modelled by a woman with alabaster skin, but at least it’s a Native American princess and not an Indian princess, right?) and many more.

Junior Allison Milholland said some women’s costumes at Spirit Halloween where she works were very revealing.

“It was mostly for adults, but it could fit a teenager,” she said.

It seems that companies have a way of turning the most humorous, frightening, and wholesome of characters into sexy female counterparts. For every priest, there is a sexy angel. For every Easter bunny, there is a Playboy bunny. Even Freddy Kruger’s iconic, red-and-green striped sweater gets strategically ripped before female consumption.

“Even when a woman’s costume is ‘scary,’ it’s still a sexy costume,” said Allison.

Junior Airon Eich agreed.

“You see sexy and slutty versions of professions and monsters, while men have generally ‘scarier’ and gorier types of costumes,” he said. 

According to, the Batman villain Bane was one of the top grossing male costumes in 2014. (  As is inherent in movie villains, Bane is a character set on causing serious trouble to the status quo. What does marketing costumes based on embodiments of death and destruction to boys and men say about society’s expectations of male interests? Are companies just satisfying the demand for men to be able to act out power fantasies, or are they encouraging the demand so they can supply it?

“Males seem to be seen as action heroes and military guys.” said Miller.

There’s an argument to be made that companies made costumes based on old-fashioned gender roles.

Men can be serial killers, women can be sexy peacocks, but what about children?

Many people reminisce about being superheroes and Disney princesses as children, and while those characters are successful every year, are some adult-to-children costume conversions inappropriate?

Milholland disagreed. She said, “I’ve noticed there are some costumes for kids (like a Seed of Chucky costume that Spirit Halloween carries) that are too scary. I feel like costumes for kids should be more cute and less scary.”

It’s clear that for people of all ages, the store-bought options for costumes are monotonous. The binary seems to be between nerve-racking and raunchy. But, of course, not all people are comfortable sticking to those two categories. Instead of complacently following the path that companies pave for people, consider pursuing more original ideas!

“I feel like costumes are marketed to uphold the gender stereotypes of what it means to be masculine and feminine,” said Eich.



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