Are ‘Sexy’ Halloween Costumes Still A Thing?

So-called sexy Halloween costumes are part and parcel of today’s spooky celebrations. But with the news that a ‘sexy’ Meghan Markle costume has hit the shelves in time for this year’s festivities, has the trend – deemed sexist and backwards by countless feminists – gone too far? Two SL team members debate whether flesh-baring fancy dress should still be on the agenda…

NO, You Won’t Catch Me In My Underwear Anymore

Charlotte Collins, Fashion Editor

If you’re a millennial like me, chances are you’re a fan of Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (based on the similarly named young adult novel by Louise Rennison)...

A seminal film for my 15-year-old self, the opening credits see lead character Georgia turn up to a fancy dress party in a giant olive costume, only to be ridiculed by her peers dressed as sexy mice, cats, school girls etc.

“We said we’d all go as hors d'oeuvres to be original. It was supposed to be a laugh,” she protests. “But boys don’t like girls for funniness,” replies her friend with a shrug. 

I’m pretty sure we can all relate not to Georgia, but her mates. In my teenage years, there was no chance you’d catch me waddling to a costume event dressed like a bar snack – any opportunity to break out of the shackles of school uniform and whip out my adolescently skinny legs was not to be missed. I was certainly more interested in displaying my body than making boys laugh, and this didn’t change much as I got older. My second year at uni, I wore a corseted Ann Summers body with boning, suspenders and just a smattering of blood for a Halloween night out. Far from my usual leather-leggings-and-a-top look, I’ve never received more attention.

What I’m saying, really, is: I’ve been there. I understand the appeal of dressing far sexier your normal self and no one batting an eyelid – it’s fun, it’s escapism, and even if you don’t admit it, it’s a good ol’ ego boost. But now I’ve hit the ripe old age of 27, it turns out I no longer need to be half-naked to feel good about myself. Day-to-day, I feel my best self in a great blazer, or a really pretty floral dress, or an amazing jumper, and that’s because I am so much more than just my body.

Harnessing a bit of self-deprecating humour through my Halloween costume is a more enjoyable endeavour than showing off my body.

When you’re young, it’s almost desirable to be defined by the way you look – the ‘prettiest girl’, or the ‘thinnest girl’, or the ‘girl with the best boobs’. But as you age, those things become less and less appealing; as much as it’s still important to me to look good, my other qualities are so much more significant. Being funny (despite what friends and colleagues may say) is one of those traits, and for me, harnessing a bit of self-deprecating humour through my Halloween costume is a more enjoyable endeavour than showing off my body given the opportunity.

My parents went to a safari themed party a few years ago. My mum, along with the majority of the guests, went for an Out of Africa-inspired look, all flattering khakis and chic neutral shades. And my dad? My dad wore a giraffe costume. A full-on, furry onesie, which had a little gap for his face in the neck and a two-foot extension, worn like a hat on top of his head. It said so much about who he is: confident, independent and filled with a sense of humour. And given the same opportunity, I know who I’d rather be. I want to make clear I pass zero judgment on those who like to reveal their bodies – that’s entirely their prerogative – but I'd rather be remembered as the giraffe, or the giant olive, for what is says about me.

YES, I’ll Be Dressing Dead Sexy This Year (& For Years To Come)

Rosy Cherrington, Features Editor

I’ll take Charlotte’s Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging quote, and raise you a Mean Girls reference...

“In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one night of the year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it. The hardcore girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears,” Lindsay Lohan’s Cady famously says.

And while the term “total slut” sounds seriously jarring to me now, her comments still ring true.

Because despite it being over 14 years since Mean Girls was made, and however far feminism has come in 2018, schoolchildren are still calling one another ‘sluts’, young girls’ hemlines are still being policed should they ‘distract’ boys and teachers, UK street harassment is still 'relentless', the judicial system still perpetuates the myth that a woman’s dress sense in any way reflects her sexual habits; still uses it to victim blame. Halloween shouldn’t have to be an excuse to wear as little as we’d sometimes like to, but in reality, it is.

That’s why I’m making full use of the occasion. No, I won’t be modelling myself on the ‘Plastics’ and wearing straight-up lingerie (it’s October in England, too cold), but I do plan on wearing far less than I’d usually venture out in. It’s fun, freeing and no one can openly judge me – or at least if anyone does, they’ll most likely be the party poopers who haven’t bothered to dress up at all.

Halloween shouldn’t have to be an excuse for women to wear as little as we’d sometimes like to, but in reality, it is.

I will caveat this by saying that ‘sexy’ Halloween costumes shouldn’t be forced upon us, and I do take issue with practically every woman’s costume on the market being branded as such – ‘sexy’ Meghan Markle (it’s just a short white dress), ‘sexy' Hermione Granger (she’s a child, pretty creepy), ‘sexy’ Donald Trump (OK, this one's actually amusing). But thankfully we have come a long way from the days where turning up to a costume do in fake teeth and full gore, a la Cady, was deemed a social faux pas – in fact, most likely due to this onslaught of oversexed Halloween gear, it’s now quite the opposite.

As much as encouraging other women to let their freak flags fly is a step forward, we mustn’t dismiss ‘sexy’ fancy dress outfits as outdated and uncool. All that does is play right into the damaging idea – already so ingrained in society – that our right to be treated as proper people depends on what we're wearing.

Plus, it's entirely possible to dress in next-to-nothing and still get your personality across (no lewd jokes, please). You can showcase your cultural taste with characters from niche movies, comic books and novels; your sense of humour; and even your political views, with the aforementioned ‘sexy’ Donald Trump, that is. Clothing certainly is a great way to express who you are, but you don’t actually need that much of it to do so.

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