Mommy, I want to be sexy for Halloween!

Mommy, I want to be sexy for Halloween!If you hang around the blogosphere long enough during the fall season, you are bound to run across a few angry posts by moms who can’t stand the options available for girl Halloween costumes. Count me in as one of the angry moms, but for different reasons.

A lot of the moms are up-in-arms about the costumes being “too sexy” and skimpy. I’d agree with that. Should we really be putting fishnet hose and a pound of make-up on our toddlers? Probably not.

Now maybe my experience has been different, but neither one of my daughters has ever come up and said to me “Mommy, I want to be sexy for Halloween.”  Not once.

And to my knowledge, neither have the daughters of any of my friends. So I totally get what these moms are ticked off about. But my beef with Halloween costumes is not with the ones we have to choose from.  It’s the ones that are MISSING!

That’s right… MISSING.

When I look back over the photos of my daughters and what they asked to be for Halloween, I see a pumpkin, a fairy, a unicorn, a cowgirl, a doctor and a veterinarian. In my own childhood photo album, I found me dressed as a clown, cowgirl, sheriff, truck driver, robot, space alien, skeleton and an undertaker.

Halloween is supposed to be a time of dressing up and make-believe. I get that. But here’s the problem as I see it. Take a stroll down the costume aisle at your nearest department store. For the boys, it’s a mix of fantasy costumes and super heroes, but also a pretty wide variety of career choices. Here is a sampling from my local Target store:

Now check the girls side… it’s almost entirely princesses, fairies and the aforementioned “sexy” costumes. Not a single career costume in sight. Not one. And believe me, my oldest daughter and I dug through every stack trying to at least one redeeming outfit.

My daughter Kirstie as a Veterinarian
My daughter Kirstie as a Veterinarian

Now let it be known that in my house, we typically make our own costumes (see the veterinarian photo, complete with live pet dog) because frankly I’m too cheap to buy the pre-made stuff. But I am just a tad peeved off that there are NO CAREER OPTIONS FOR THE GIRLS. Not even one.

Now, you’re probably thinking that she can just buy a costume from the boys aisle and everything is good, right? That is certainly an option. But let’s take a closer look at the marketing for these boy costumes.

Go ahead – look at them again.

See how they are worded? Why do we have to put “boy costume” or “girl costume” on anything? Why can’t it just be “costume” and let the child pick what he or she wants to be? Why are they using terms like FireMAN and PoliceMAN?

How smart is this, really?

At this point my husband jumped in and said this is just “smart marketing” because in general more boys will choose that for a costume.

Is it smart? Is it really that brilliant to make your packaging gender specific when a career is gender-neutral? How many little girls who wanted to be a police officer by-passed that costume because it was targeted to boys or how many may have never even seen it because they didn’t think to look in the boys section for a costume?  What about the undecided girl who was just browsing and would have chosen the doctor costume had she seen it in the girls section?

And besides that, what kind of crappy message does that send to our daughters when all the career costume choices are offered to the boys, labeled as “boy costume” and use gender specific titles?

I’m not asking for separate packaging either. Make it gender neutral and put either a boy or girl on it – I don’t care which as long as it shows an even number of both for all the career costumes. If the design team was smart, they would put one gender on the front and another on the back to show the costume is for either a boy or girl. Why are they limiting their market?  How “smart” is that?

Firefighter GirlWhat happened to FireFIGHTER and Police OFFICER? I can guarantee you that a lot of little girls would choose career costumes like that. How so? Because those careers are by far the hottest selling Girls Can’t WHAT? designs in my gift shop!

How do we fix this?

So what do we do about this issue? We can’t vote with our dollars. Girls buying boy costumes won’t change the packaging. Not buying them doesn’t change anything either. We have to be vocal about it. We have to blog about it. We have to educate our daughters about their choices in life so when they grow up to be marketers and graphic designers, they will be the ones to change that packaging!

Education is the key. That is exactly what I did as I went down that aisle with my 15-year-old daughter. And she was happy to help point out the discrepancies to me and snap photos. We had a great conversation.

This costume dilemma is a good dialog to have with your child – male or female. And now is the time. Take your child out to the costume aisle at the store this week and ask them what they see. Ask them if girls can be police officers or firefighters or doctors or pirates or super heroes…

What will they say?


  • Hi Gretchen,

    This is an excellent article and preaches some similar messages to our campaign. Please contact me at as we’d like you to write an article for our blog.


  • Excellent written post. Unfortunately this type of sexist thinking isn’t limited to Halloween costumes.

  • We just make our own…I have no time for the crap idea people have out there about girls. If you have girls then you got grab the bull by the horns and shove it off your path with no remorse.

    Thanks for the info it is good to be reminded of those messages that we have to guard against.

  • Carole Barklow

    I hadn’t realized that there were no career costumes for girls, but a couple of years ago I was looking for an “Alice in Wonderland” costume for myself (the Cheshire Cat for this cat lover) and I was unhappy to find almost all of the costumes for women were sexy. I put tights and knee socks on under the Cheshire Cat shorts and a shirt on under the top.

    When I was a girl, there weren’t all these premade costumes. If you wanted to be a ghost, you used an old sheet. If you wanted to be a cowgirl, you cut a vest out of a paper bag and bought a neckerchief and hat. When I wanted to be Wendy from Peter Pan, we bought a blue nightgown and a pink ribbon. When I was a teen, Mom showed me how to wrap a sari using a long piece of material. I also used old clothes to dress as a hobo. There were many different masks available to add to your costume before they were outlawed as unsafe.

    This problem with the career costumes reminds me of when they had separate ads for men’s jobs and women’s jobs. That was finally outlawed because it was discriminatory. I used to look for my jobs in the men’s section anyway. I certainly hope the costume companies wise up to reality.


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