Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

Halloween Costumes or Kiddie Lingerie?

I went into a local Halloween store to look at the costumes with my daughters; BIG MISTAKE!! These are pictures of the actual costumes that were on offer for girls ages 8-14 years. As I looked at these costumes, I began to wonder, why has Halloween become such a time of sexualizing young women? If you’ll notice, these costumes are all sized for tween and teenagers. That means all the way down to ages eight and ten. And they look uncomfortably similar to the adult costumes that are marketed in the “sexy” category. Looking at the costumes above, it might not surprise you to learn that Halloween costumes are manufactured in the same place as the majority of the pornography in the United States.

My 10-year-old daughter saw me taking pictures and asked me what I was doing. After I told her that I was taking pictures of costumes that I thought were inappropriate, she asked, “What’s inappropriate about these costumes?”

This question brings up a very good point to consider. It is often difficult for children and even adolescents to understand why particular clothing choices are connected with sexuality. Most children and young adolescents don’t understand what lingerie is and how it’s involved in sexual relationships, so they can’t see the similarities between the lace-up corsets, thigh-high hose, and plunging necklines in a Halloween costume to what might be displayed in an adult bedroom. That’s why it’s vital for the adults in their lives to help them make decisions. What may look “cute” to a 14-year-old girl will often look sexy to an older teen-age boy or adult man.  It is our responsibility as adults in the lives of children and young people to say “you shouldn’t wear that, and this is why.”

We also need to hold companies accountable for marketing inappropriately sexy costumes to young girls. If you see something similar to these costumes in your local Halloween store or a catalogue that’s sent to your home and you think it’s inappropriate, speak up. Talk to the manager of the store, organize a petition through change.org or in your community, call company headquarters, and enlist your friends to do the same.

Sure it’s uncomfortable to talk about sexuality sometimes, especially if you hadn’t planned on having that conversation. But, it’s important for us to explain to the kids in our lives why we’re saying no, be it to an outfit, a relationship, or an outing. We need to be open and honest about what messages others may pick up from such clothing, what situations our child may be getting into, and how they can keep themselves safe. When we open up this line of communication, our kids are better able to ask us questions about things they don’t understand or of which they are unsure. After we talked about the costumes and what made them inappropriate, my daughter said, “Mommy, will you let me know if I’m ever wearing something that might get me attention that I’m not looking for?” You bet I will!

If you’re looking for fun costumes for kids that aren’t overly sexy, there are several different options. Of course, if you sew you can make your own. I don’t sew, so my girls and I love to go to Goodwill and other local resale shops and comb through the clothes there. We find all kinds of fun things for costumes, and they don’t look like every other kids walking down the block. From an archer to a Greek goddess to a clown and a soccer player, we’ve found all we needed at resale shops, garage sales, and in our own costume boxes. If you really want to buy a new costume, have fun; but before you spend your money with a particular company, consider the overall message that they promote about the value of girls and women. We become world changers when we’re willing to consider how our choices impact the world around us and are willing to stand up for what we see as right.

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4 comments on “Halloween Costumes or Kiddie Lingerie?

  1. whatsaysyou
    October 27, 2011

    Awesome post, Jennifer, and you got a point that some costumes marketed to tweens and teens are too racy and unacceptable.

  2. Pingback: From Candy Corny to Downright Porny

  3. Pingback: Halloween Sexualization Hurts Imagination | Parent Girls

  4. Naomi
    October 7, 2011

    These outfits are the kind of thing an adult would wear. I don’t care if it is Halloween but the skirts etc could be much lower!!!!

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