Beyond Sexy Halloween Costumes and Halloween Immunity

Beyond Sexy Halloween Costumes and Halloween Immunity

Halloween is the one night when a girl can dress like a total slut. Thus spake Mean Girls. What about costumes with self expression, real scares or historical accuracy?

A friend recently ranted about the lack of options she had in Halloween costuming, being a young woman of 18. To paraphrase her: ‘Why are all Halloween costumes for women ‘sexy’ Halloween costumes? What if I don’t want to be sexy? What if I want to be historically accurate, or scary as hell?’ In considering her question, I did my own search for costuming, and what I found confirmed her complaint: there’s a glut of sexy costumes on the market, but not much else. Why?

Halloween Immunity

My answer to my friend’s questions would be: You aren’t the kind of person those costumes are marketed for. The standard shop Halloween costumes that are frustrating her are mass marketed for the general populace and people of all ages, but primarily targeting 15-25 year-olds. As with many elements of mass marketing, a person’s unique interests and qualities are overlooked. The vast majority of young people really want to, pardon the expression, ‘vamp’ it up for the night and let loose their inner freak. For some, it is outlandishly sexy; for some, it is evil or dread. And for some, especially in vampire and zombie cosplay or LARP (Live Action Roleplaying), it’s a bit of both.

In the 2004 film Mean Girls, the heroine, Cady, makes a narrative observation as an outsider to teenage girl culture: ‘In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy; in Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.’ While there’s a bit of critical peer judgment from Cady (actually a bit of unfair slut shaming), there’s a deeper understanding to be gained in that comment.

Interesting fact: the movie Mean Girls began life as Queen Bees And Wannabes (Rosalind Wiseman, 2002: Hatchett Digital Publishing, London), a guide for mothers trying to understand the often-bullying world of teenager daughters, their behaviour, and the social rituals that hold their micro-society together. Actress/comedian/author Tina Fey built the characters, story and screenplay for the film using Wiseman’s dry text as a basis for themes to explore. In QB&W, Wiseman names the naughty-dress phenomenon ‘Halloween Immunity’.

That kind of self-expression should be encouraged. Not only does it give people kept in deeply conservative social structures a chance to push their envelopes, it can also be empowering in an individual and group sense. And it doesn’t only apply to teenage girls, either. Closeted men with cross-gender desires can get away with dressing as sexy women, publicly, in a way they perhaps feel they can’t in their daily lives, and vice-versa. Everyone gets a special permission to live outside of their daily ego and explore an alter-ego; either an attractive pre-packaged one, or one of their own devising. Although why anyone wants to be a sexy Ms. Potato Head is still beyond me.

My friend’s complaint was not about sexuality; as I understand her, she likes the female and male form, likes to look good in a photograph, and has no problem with anyone who wants to be sexy and appealing, male or female. She simply doesn’t want to be limited to only these options, or perhaps, doesn’t want to be objectified when she’s trying to enjoy herself.

If you’re not aware that other kinds of Halloween costumes are out there, you just have to either know where to find them, or know how to make one yourself. As friend to all things Halloween, I feel that those who actually like to wear a conceptual, non-objectifying costume should be commended, celebrated, and assisted. Here are some different options for those who want to eschew the mass-market hotness appeal on Halloween in favour of something more dynamic.

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories show you how to make an umbrella bat costume.

Seeking the Historical

As an American who grew up loving Halloween and everything about it, I think theatrical costuming might be the answer you’re looking for. Not the simple shops that sell the Fancy Dress items, but the places that rent higher-end costumes for plays and productions. Granted, most plays/films tend to use women objectively as the marketing done in these places is to the male gaze, but there will be costumes of a more complex level, instead of the tights-and-layers clear plastic package you find in most shops.

You can also explore the historical possibilities on the Take Back Halloween site.

Scary Shopping

While a very scary costume can be conceived using only make-up kits, I can also recommend high-quality theatrical Woochie latex appendages and such, which are available in the U.S. and the U.K via mail order. LARPers use these shops for the more complex cosplays, such as the raised cranial ridges of vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Lost Boys, or horns, scars, and the like.

Do It Yourself on the Cheap!

Photo: MediaArtDesign. Model: Captin Maximus Ron. A regular .alt model and LARPer, Captin Ron has created an inexpensive leopard themed costume with the creative application of eye makeup.

You can build a costume from the ground up if you have time, resources, and enough interest. Start by narrowing down a couple of concepts you would like to try. From there, determine what materials you will need to get to the work: cloth, sewing machine/sewing spools (if you know your way around a sewing machine), toy props, etc. In some cases, you can use Craigslist, eBay, Etsy, and charity shops to get your hands on cheap outfit basics. According to my friend Gemma, “You can usually fudge together something from the remnants in your make-up bag without having to buy new, fancy face paints.”

Halloween is your chance to express something you might not be able to say every day. A 6-foot bearded man can be a chihuahua. A tiny girl can be Conan the Barbarian. On Halloween, we relax social standards and let people create illusions for themselves. Enjoy whatever path you choose!

DIY Halloween Costume Ideas

To help you get thinking, here are just some of the ideas that Mooks have created or suggested over the years…

  • Adam And The Ants Highwayman zombie
  • Hitcher from The Mighty Boosh
  • Jaime and Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones. Because there are few things scarier in our society today than incest…
  • Quorra from Tron Legacy
  • Elle Driver from Kill Bill
  • One of the Crazy 88’s from Kill Bill
  • Officer Jenny from Pokemon
  • Emily and Victor from Corpse Bride (good for couples)
  • La Fee Verte… the Absinthe green fairy
  • She-Ra or Wonder Woman
  • An inmate from Emilie Autumn’s Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls
  • Broken doll
  • Minecraft creeper
  • Pudgy brown owl
  • Drow-Elf from D&D
  • Vampire/zombie cheshire cat
  • Ramona Flowers
  • Clockwork time travelling dom
  • Akatsuki characters from Naruto
  • A Sim (little green triangle above the head)
  • Zombie headmistress/headmaster
  • Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice
  • Zombie Pinup Girl
  • Pikachu
  • The Joker (especially creative if you’re female)
  • Professor Trelawney
  • Alex from Clockwork Orange
  • Nurse from Silent Hill

Photo: Game design buccaneer Robin Hunicke attired as one of the Crazy 88s from Kill Bill.

Kudzutech made his samurai Halloween costume from recycled Rubbermaid rubbish bins and rubber stoppers.