With Halloween fast approaching, female students are starting to break out their “sexy” costumes, and with that also comes an underlying sexism that is rarely recognized at this time of year.
Halloween seems to be the time of year when everyone thinks that it’s okay to slut-shame women based on their costume choices. However, this is definitely not okay. There are a variety of reasons why a woman might wear a sexier Halloween costume, and yes, one of those reasons might be that she wants to look and feel sexy.
However, when Halloween comes, do women actually make the conscious choice to wear a “sexy” Halloween costume or are those types of costumes the only options available?
This year, I decided that I wasn’t going to make my Halloween costume like I usually do. Instead, I wanted to just buy one off the rack at a store. I went into three stores in Saskatoon to do so: Spirit Halloween, Walmart and Value Village.
At Spirit Halloween, instead of costumes being separated by gender, they’re organized into “themes.” I thought this would make it more difficult to notice the sexism in the female costumes. However the layout of the store actually made it a lot easier to tell.
For almost every costume, there is a “male” and “female” version and the differences are quite appalling. Male versions tend to be a more accurate portrayal of what the costume is actually suppose to be and usually offer coverage from head to toe.
The women’s version, however, is completely different. Pants are a very rare thing to be found in a women’s Halloween costume. Instead, they’re replaced with an extremely tight-fitting, short dress or skirt.
There’s almost always fabric cut out of the costume to create room for an ample amount of cleavage and every aspect of the costume is hyper-sexualized. It was very difficult for me to find a single women’s Halloween costume that did not fall into this pattern.
Even if I wanted to purchase one of these “sexy” costumes, I couldn’t do so anyway because to my knowledge, Spirit Halloween doesn’t offer any plus-size costumes whatsoever. It would almost seem that commercial costume-makers don’t want women to wear anything but over-sexualized versions of whatever type of costume we want to wear — and if you’re a plus-size woman, then apparently you can’t be sexy, so they don’t offer anything for you at all.
My findings at Walmart and at Value Village were quite similar, with only a few differences. Again, at both stores I found the options for women extremely limited to sexy costumes only.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a section for plus-size costumes at both stores. However, the plus-size costumes offered a lot more coverage of the body and — while the regular women’s costumes were more “cute and sexy” — the plus-size ones were more “dark and scary.”
I do not have a problem with dark and scary Halloween costumes normally — as long as they are standard across all sizes. However, to me this sends the message that plus-size women cannot be considered sexy.
These costumes assume that a plus-size woman must want more coverage, which isn’t necessarily true. I love my body. If I want to show off my legs, chest or tummy, then I should be able to, just like any other woman.
The verdict on commercial Halloween costumes is that I definitely won’t be buying one this year. Instead, the amount of sexism and lack of plus-size representation in stores gave me the motivation to make my costume again this year. Besides, it’s cheaper, more fun and gives me the true choice that I deserve when it comes to my costume.
Photo: Caitlin Taylor / Photo Editor