When I was a kid, every week before October 31st my mom would cart out the 'Halloween box,' an oversized, dilapidated and musty trunk filled with seemingly ancient costumes. My many siblings and I would choose a getup; there was never, ever the assumption that we’d buy a new outfit each year. I would long for the prefab costumes some of my friends had with a plastic mask and matching, formless jumpsuit. I still long for those simple, elusive costumes, but, as a parent, it’s for an entirely different reason.
Halloween has become big business since I was little, and most American kids today expect something new to debut each year. Americans will spend, on average, $28.65 per costume. If that price tag doesn't come as enough of a shock, parents – of daughters in particular – might well be terrified by the ‘sexification’ of nearly everything on the racks. The prefab costume tradition of the 70s and 80s lives on for today's girls, but with go-go girl outfits subbed in for jumpsuits.
It all doubles down on the stereotypes girls see on television, where male characters come in all shapes, but female characters range from size 0 to size 4.
The message is: You can be whatever you want for Halloween, but your imagination shouldn’t go further than a few modifications to a cheerleading outfit.
There’s no perfect answer to the problem. You can ‘Just Say No to Slutoween’ as blogger Jenny Witte advises parents to do. But as Vicki Glembocki points out, we like to send our kids mixed messages to "slow down" when it comes to dressing like their classmates but "speed up" when it comes to reading chapter books ahead of schedule. And if you end up trying to talk your daughter out of a costume by equating “slutty” with “shameful,” you may unwittingly do further damage still.
Help another parent: Do you have a story about how you changed a child’s troubling costume into something more positive? Tell us in the comments or in a blog post.