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Parents Talk: Why Are So Many Girls Halloween Costumes Inappropriate?

The girls Halloween costume aisle is looking more and more like a lingerie store these days, and some retailers are targeting younger age brackets.

Apparently, witches aren’t ugly anymore -- they’re sexy.

So are pirates, pumpkins and princesses. At least, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to after several years of combing through little girl costumes for Halloween.

The girls costume aisle looks more and more like a lingerie store with an increasing array of halter tops, midriff-baring shirts and miniskirts, while costume catalogs and websites teem with images of pouty preteens in suggestive poses. 

For example, a girl isn’t an Army cadet anymore, she’s a “Major Flirt,” complete with black fishnet stockings and a studded choker. Female firefighters also wear stockings now, and even Little Bo Peep comes with a corset, short skirt and lacy petticoat. 

Complaints about suggestive girls costumes are nothing new. But its seems like the industry is ramping up towards younger and younger groups of girls. 

These days, it’s not just tweens who are pressured. Six- and 7-year-old girls are now featured in catalogs wearing child-sized versions of the skimpy costumes that used to be reserved for boudoir photo shoots. On Amazon, you can even buy an outfit called a “Child’s Chamber Maid Costume.”

Add that to all the licensed character costumes from shows like “Hannah Montana” and toy lines like Bratz and it’s hard not to become frustrated as a parent of a little girl this time of year. 

Where are the cute witch costumes with warty green noses and long black gowns? Or how about dressing as a fortune teller, like I did one year, with a crystal ball and yards upon yards (and I mean YARDS) of flowy, sparkly fabric? Not an inch of skin in sight, and not just because it threatened to snow on Halloween that year.

Now there’s nothing wrong with little girls wanting to look pretty.

But when an 8-year-old girl can’t find a doctor costume because the stories only have sexy nurse outfits, then I have a problem. When sexy and suggestive is the only option.

As women, we know how important the tween years are to body image and self-esteem. It’s hard enough to deal with your budding hormones and developing body, but today’s overemphasis on body image is having a real negative impact.

The American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls linked oversexualization with three of the most common mental health problems for girls 18 and older -- eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. And there’s evidence that the effect is trickling down the age brackets.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution here. And my daughter is only 5. 

It’s easy for me to sit back and say I’ll never let her dress in a skimpy costume when she wants to be a chicken for Halloween this year (yes, a CHICKEN). I haven’t had to wage that battle -- yet.

However, I do know this. The industry is only following pop culture, and I believe that we, as parents and especially as mothers, can play a role in changing that culture through our words and actions. Because after all, real pirates wear pants, do they not?

What do you think about the Halloween costume choices for girls? Tell us in the comments section below.

Kirsten Fisher October 03, 2012 at 11:36 PM
I agree. Luckily my daughter likes the Strawberry Shortcake costumes. Dont have to worry about other costumes yet. My other issue is that our office encourages us to wear costumes at work for Halloween. All of the women's customes are too suggestive for work.
Barbara Tahir October 07, 2012 at 03:29 AM
I have been sewing my own costumes for years now because of this issue. I think my breaking point was when I picked up a nun's costume for my daughter to wear to her Catholic school party. I was flabbergasted to realize it was a "sexy sister" costume!!!! The thing with sewing your own is that it does not have to be perfect sewing and you can come up with so many more ideas than the costume shops have. Afterwards you can make good money from them at a garage sale. I can barely sew but the costumes always come out fine. I always do them in the winter when it is too cold and awful outside to do anything else.
Dublin Housewife October 07, 2012 at 08:10 PM
I remember Halloween in the early 80s...it was the highlight of the month of October to go to Alpha Beta, coming thru the Halloween costumes and selecting a plastic jumpsuit and plastic mask, which is what was the standard for Halloween costumes back then. Times sure have changed, and as a parent to two girls, I am appalled that the costumes these days are so incredibly suggestive..."Little Black Dress" is not a costume that anyone under 18 should have available as a choice. That being said, these costumes continue to be available because the parents are buying them. Sad.
Judy October 09, 2012 at 05:05 AM
What is even worse are some of the costumes worn by parents to school for their children's Halloween party. You would think that they were attending the Erotica Ball.

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