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How Halloween Costumes Became Sexy

From Sweet to Sexy: The Halloween Costume Evolution

Dressing up for Halloween is nothing new, but it's not that old either. It was brought to North America by the 19th-century wave of Scottish and Irish immigrants, whose children went door to door asking for coins in a practice called "guising."

"Guising" reminds me of "cruising," so it shouldn't surprise you to learn we have gay men to thank for today's sexed-up Halloween. New York City hosted its first Halloween parade in 1973, and with its location in the city's West Village gay district, it quickly went from children in masks to men in drag. Gay neighborhoods in other cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles followed, reveling in the '70s pornographic spirit. It was only a matter of market research before stores started selling sexy costumes.

Yet this doesn't explain how the sexy trend became a women's issue. Straight men, after all, usually do gross, funny, or mock sexy, while one retailer told The New York Times in 2006 that 90 percent of its women's costumes were sexy.


Adie Nelson, PhD, author of the study The Pink Dragon Is Female: Halloween Costumes and Gender Markers, believes it began with costumes for little girls. "Heroic figures for women or considered icons of femininity are very much anchored in the femme fatale imagery," and that includes "Disney heroines, witches, cocktail waitresses, French maids, and an interchangeable variety of beauty queens."

Could it be that we took the already very girly costumes of our youth and sexed them up because we were old enough to? Or is it more meaningful? "I love to imagine that there's some real social message, that it's sort of the female equivalent of doing drag," Dr. Nelson said. "But I don't think it's necessarily so well thought out."

What do you think?

Source: Flickr User PrincessAshley

MissSushi MissSushi 6 years
Yeah, I sincerely wish I had learned before I had kids. There just isnt much time for sewing or being creative when you're up with kiddos till an hour before your own bedtime. I'm hoping to take some sewing classes the end of next year. The costumes they sell for 30-40 bucks a pop are complete crap.
elizabethsosewn elizabethsosewn 6 years
MissSushi it's things like that that make me very glad I can sew. i plan on MAKING all of my childrens' costumes for halloween
MissSushi MissSushi 6 years
I'm not into the sexy halloween costumes, but what pisses me off most is that sexy halloween costumes have made their way down to the toddlers hardcore. This year, 99.9% of toddler and girls costumes were thin, sexy dresses with corsets. I had a hell of a time going from one store to another looking for costumes that wouldnt make my 2 year old look like a prostitute. I ended up giving up and piecing together a kitty costume for her. We did a town wide event and very few little girls were wearing costumes that deviated from that. Sad.
C-Ruth C-Ruth 6 years
lol, bfromthehart
inlove23 inlove23 6 years
^ haha, from bfromtheheart! I agree with the Mean Girls quote "Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it".
bfromthehart bfromthehart 6 years
I'm a mouse, duh!
postmodernsleaze postmodernsleaze 6 years
I hate the slutty card girls pull on Halloween. I have a rule about keeping Halloween traditional and going as something scary. I totally agree with Pistil that there is nothing meaningful or progressive about this trend. This CollegeHumor video about sexy costumes always cracks me up: Sexy 1900s Steel Conglomerate Tycoon!
Pistil Pistil 6 years
Nothing meaningful or progressive about it. I was always the Cady of Halloween.
TiVo TiVo 6 years
Agreed tlsgirl, Mean Girls hit the nail on the head.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 6 years
I think it's fun to be unabashedly sexy (or slutty, whatever) for one night and not be judged for it. Mean Girls really did say it best.
bfromthehart bfromthehart 6 years
In both articles it has been said that the LGBT community is to blame for the nightmare that is sexy Halloween costumes. I agree on that, but Leg Avenue, the pioneer of sexy Halloween costumes, originally sold solely lingerie, before branching out into costumes, which bore in mind their lingerie. Which leads me to the American Apparel costumes!...
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