Why Save Sexy for Halloween?
Originally published on SexReally.com on October 28, 2010.
So, this Halloween are you wearing your naughty nurse costume or are you going out as a slutty schoolgirl?
A quick Google search of women’s Halloween costumes reveals something that surely you already know — on Halloween, women (and girls) are encouraged to be sexy. Even the marketing language is provocative:
Women’s Halloween 2010. Hotter and sexier than ever! Hey foxy lady! Strut your stuff this Halloween in a sexy costume…find the hottest Playboy costumes…the sauciest pirate costumes, and some very wicked witch costumes…just a few of the fantasies you can explore this Halloween!
A post on SexReally last Halloween asked some interesting questions, including whether the sexy costume craze indicates that women feel societal pressure to repress their sexuality in everyday life. As I continue to think about my own Halloween experiences and observe this year’s costume options, I’m particularly compelled by that concept — why do so many women take part in dressing provocatively this one time of the year? Seriously, when was the last time you went to a Halloween event with a significant number of women covered up by convincing ghost, ghoul, or zombie costumes? Women are selecting skimpy costumes for a reason.
I was invited to a Halloween party in college and purchased a gorgeous pair of fairy wings for the occasion. They were almost the length of my body and were a soft pink color with lots of glitter. On the night of the party I had my costume ready to go — a short black skirt, a black tank top, those fabulous wings, pink hair, and lots of shimmery makeup. Except that night was freezing. I stepped outside and hit the 40-degree cold air and instantly turned around. I went back inside and traded my black tank top for a sweater and put on a pair of dark pantyhose just so I could have something on my legs.
Once I got to the party I was lost in a sea of sexy cops, sassy cheerleaders, and slutty Disney characters. I was wearing far too many clothes and felt out of place. It’s not that I felt peer pressure in that moment to dress sexy. Instead, I felt like I was missing out on something. It was my one chance during the year to wear something super-skimpy and have it be socially acceptable. And what did I do? I wore a sweater.
The roots of the far-too-sexy Halloween dilemma are deep. It is really about language and sexual assumptions based on clothing. If you’re female and are in or survived high school, you know what I’m talking about. The girl who wears too-short skirts or cleavage-revealing tops instantly gets categorized by peers. And once the words “slut” or “whore” are thrown out it’s really hard to shake off that label.
I experienced a slice of that my senior year of high school, including one harsh name-calling encounter with a teacher. I attended a school play and during intermission one of my drama teachers walked up and told me that my clothing choice was completely inappropriate and that I looked like a slut. I had no idea what she was talking about — until I looked down and saw that a sliver of my stomach was showing. I sincerely had no idea that when I got dressed that evening in jeans and a t-shirt that I was showing any skin other than my arms. As it turns out I had either outgrown the shirt or it shrunk and I hadn’t noticed.
My teacher’s comments were like a slap across the face. Her use of the word “slut” was so cavalier, and my sexual experience was so minimal, that I instinctively knew that she was wrong in her assessment. But, oh no! I could be perceived as loose just by showing a quarter of an inch of belly. I look back on that situation and wish I would’ve had the wherewithal to tell that teacher to go fuck herself. But, that word “slut” is so vicious and sticky that I reacted instantly. I went to my car (where by chance I had an extra shirt) and changed clothes between acts.
Steering clear of that “slut” label might be part of the answer as to why women go for sexy costumes. Maybe, as Lindsay Lohan’s character points out in Mean Girls, Halloween is a free pass. It is a way for women to explore something, to try on a disguise and explore a fantasy without being subject to harsh criticism. Because, when it comes down to it, on November 1st most of us have to go back to wearing more modest clothing.
It’s no wonder that there are so many sexy costumes available. It’s like all that sexy energy and experimentation gets pent up for a whole year and then explodes one night in the form of kitten tails, bustiers, and fishnet tights. Not that it is right. But, hell, there is so much pressure to keep it together, to keep your inner freak under wraps, maybe it’s inevitable that it’s going to burst out one way or another.
Let me make this clear: I’m not advocating you wear as little as possible for Halloween. Nor that you buy into an entire industry that is attempting to sell teeny-tiny costumes. I just think there is something going on with the control of female sexuality on a larger scale that we should question. Halloween reveals a symptom, not the disease. It is an illusion to think that we have the freedom to wear whatever we want. Because there are always those harsh words — slut, whore, skank — that are the consequences of experimenting with clothing. We are told to vamp it up, to be beautiful, to be sexy — but, oh! Not too much!
Halloween is the one day of the year when a girl can wear lingerie and eat gobs of chocolate in public. (Is it a coincidence that two of the most hot-button issues of being a modern woman — how we look and what we eat — are allowed to come out and play on the same evening?) Maybe if some of those instincts were practiced in smaller and safer quantities throughout the year, we wouldn’t feel the compulsion to go overboard on Halloween night.
Kaarin Moore is the owner of Closet Caucus, a fashion consulting company located in Washington, DC. Her goal is to help clients express who they are through the medium of clothing. You can reach her at www.closetcaucus.com or on twitter (@closetcaucus).
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