Moms Talk: Have Children's Halloween Costumes Become Too Sexy?

Yes, Virginia, you shouldn't dress your toddler like a stripper.

It’s Halloween next Wednesday. A time for small scares and big fun. A time to eat candy until your stomach hurts. A time to dress up and pretend to be something you can never truly be in your real life. (For the last few years, I’ve gone as a soccer mom.)

And for many, a time to decry the sexualization of young girls in our society.

It’s true that there are a bizarre number of costumes out there that are just plain inappropriate for the age group they’re aimed at. (For some tamer examples, check out this slideshow.) And it’s also true that even the non-obviously sexualized costumes are weirdly genderized. Tight around the stomach, short flared skirts, and low cut necklines seem to be the norm for girls, regardless of what the costume is supposed to be.

Do you think children's Halloween costumes have become too sexualized? Tell us in the comments section.

My daughter last year wanted to be a pumpkin. Many of the options were strange frilly dresses that didn’t look at all pumpkin-y to my daughter. I was concerned about the body language of the children in the pictures, but my daughter was more concerned that they didn’t look like pumpkins.

Here’s the thing, though. We did find a perfectly fine, perfectly appropriate costume for her. It wasn’t even that hard. It just wasn’t the first thing on the shelf.

Here’s the other thing. They wouldn’t sell those other ones unless somebody was buying them.

Gasp!  Someone might have different parenting opinions about what’s appropriate!

I’ve mentioned before that I often don’t understand parental outrage. The “won’t somebody think of the children” crowd has no friend in me, be they freaked out about the marijuana legalization bill or the sexy big bird costume.  I am the parent. It is my job, not society's, to talk to my kid about marijuana and age appropriate costuming alike.

I don’t get Honey Boo Boo. I don’t watch shows that feature people I don’t enjoy spending my time with, so I don’t understand either the appeal or the outrage. What I do know is that somewhere in Georgia, some parents are raising their child very differently from my husband and I.

Like I didn’t already know that.

But the show wouldn’t exist if people didn’t want to watch it. And these costumes wouldn’t exist if people didn’t want to buy them. 

So don’t buy them if you don’t want to. And those who do? Are not your problem (and shouldn't be your friends).

And if it’s your kids that want to buy them and you don’t want to? Seriously? It’s time to be a parent. Don’t buy your kids things that are against your values. Buy foam earplugs instead and use them to ignore the whining.

Or offer your kids limited options. I love the website amightygirl.com, and pretty much gave my daughter free pick of anything from their awesome costume/dress up page. I also told her that she could be anything else she wanted to be that was appropriate. She’s 8, and has now known me long enough to know what that means in our house.

Whatever it takes, don’t let your kids leave the house in something that’s against your values. Something you hate? Sure. I’m not nuts about the year she went as candy corn. That stuff is disgusting. But slutty candy corn would have been non-negotiable.

Let your wallet be ruled by your conscience. On Halloween and every day. 

Jennifer October 26, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Last year we did home made costumes and avoided all of this, but it just wasn't going to happen this year. Before we went the costume store, I explained that I had to approve of their costume choice. I haven't yet figured out at what age they can pick whatever they want, but at nine and seven, I am still maintaining veto rights on their costume choices. The way I have explained it to them is that they are girls, not adults, and that I simply find it inappropriate for little girls to look like adults. They will have most of their lives to dress how they want, wear as much make up as they want, etc., but that while they are my little girls, I want them to look like little girls. They have totally accepted this and had no problem when I said no to several costumes. Neither of them whined or complained, they just wanted guidelines as to what I found appropriate. In the end all parties were happy.
Ann October 26, 2012 at 04:47 PM
You hit the nail on the head with this one comment, "I am the parent. It is my job, not society's, to talk to my kid about marijuana and age appropriate costuming alike." And of course there is a market for the inappropriate costumes, you can just go to any mall any day of the week and see young girls trussed up in skinny jeans, showing their navels, just like their mommies!
Denise October 26, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Animal seem to be our best choice of costume, partly because costumes for the girls can be passed down to the little brothers! But I do I have problem with costumes in sizes 2T, 3T, 4T that only can be described as "skanky". Clearly I don't buy them (even on 75% discount after Halloween), but I would like a world where there was an agreement among all adults to not groom girls to be porn fodder before they are out of diapers.
Todd November 02, 2012 at 12:40 PM
I was somewhat shocked when looking over the local Halloween store. True it is the parent's responsibility to guide and teach our children right from wrong, and items that don't sell will get replaced by items that do, however, we need better choices to choose from. When I walked the isles, it seemed even the little kid costumes were portrayed as overly sexy. Now it may just be the poor marketing, but the pictures just all looked like they were heading of to a sex party, or at least trying to attract mates! Look out when you got to the teens...those skirts were so short they couldn't have sneezed. So, it isn't just Moms that noticed. The industry needs to use age appropriate marketing instead of the tried and true sex sells.


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