An Open Letter to Halloween Costume Designers

Dear People who design Children’s Halloween Costumes,

The pumpkins are coming, the pumpkins are coming! Candy corn has replaced school supplies and your costumes have chased out garden hoses in seasonal section of Target. I love autumn. I love Halloween and my memories of dragging a pillowcase door to door to fill with candy.  I treasure the memories of my children’s costumes, Belle, Woody, Fairy, Iron Man, a bat, a pig, a frog . . .this is my eleventh Halloween as a parent.  Tragically, I’m begin to lose my love for this treasured holiday.

Why? I blame Party City  and its competitors’ girls’ costumes, and I blame you. Sadly, I fully expect to see inappropriate costumes for teenagers in the Halloween catalogs show up in my mailbox at this time of year.  I get that teenagers will do what teenagers do. I used to wear short skirts and too much makeup in high school too.  I realize “sexy” costumes have been around forever.  In college a friend of mine dressed as a, “sexy maid,” but she was twenty, not ten.  In more recent years the costumes were marketed to teenagers, which troubles me because of the message it sends to girls about their bodies on a day that’s supposed to be fun and nostalgic. Yet even that doesn’t bother me nearly so much as the fact that your inappropriate costumes are now marketed in child sizes. CHILD. SIZES!
Corsets for All Children!

Were I so inclined (or so insane) last fall, I might have bought my third-grade daughter a size 8/10 youth sexy witch costume.  I am not so inclined. Last year, instead, she decided to be “Baby Mouse,” a cartoon character from a comic book series for girls.  Moira likes to read.  She didn’t want to be a “sexy mouse.” Thank god, but it would have been easier to find a sexy mouse costume than an appropriate mouse costume.

When I was a kid I wore a black trash bag with yellow tape-stripes and a bumblebee headband.  I wore a Raggedy-Ann mask and my winter coat. I was in it for the candy and the camaraderie, not to expose my budding body.  I suspect that most little girls aren’t even thinking about wanting to “look sexy,” but are simply seeing their limited options and choosing accordingly.  Unlike today’s American Girl, I never had the opportunity to dress like this or this or this when I was still wearing child-sized clothing.

By Brian Lin (originally posted to Flickr as FantasyFest1-107) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
More my style
By Brian Lin (originally posted to Flickr as FantasyFest1-107) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
Didn’t we learn with the outrage over Brooke Shields’ nude photos and films that girls twelve and under should not be “sexy?”  It’s been forty years, maybe we forgot.  I mean Roman Polanski is still barred from the USA, and with good reason.  Now, eight, nine, ten, eleven year-olds need to have sexy Halloween costumes? Sexy tweens? God help us.  Yes these costumes are scary, but not for the right reason. What nine year old needs a corset or a bustier?

On the one hand I realize you sell what people buy, but perusing the selection of girls costumes in sizes larger than 7, I couldn’t find a single costume is appropriate for a fourth grade girl.  What I find most ironic is that my son is the same size as my daughter, and there is no end of options for boys that cover their bodies, play to the fantastic spirit of Halloween, and don’t imply or exploit a sexuality that is inherently absent in a prepubescent body. Even a Thunder Cats’ men’s costume that could be revealing is made as a jumpsuit covering bits that are exposed in women and girl’s costumes.  Exhibit A: Pikachu for boys and girls. Exhibit B: Lion, Lioness – apparently even baby female lions wear corsets, hakuna matata indeed!  This all causes me to wonder, for whose fantasy are these costumes designed? Not my daughter’s.  Certainly not her mother’s!

By Don Scarborough (family photo) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Boy, Girl? Who knows. Appropriate for Halloween? YES! Thank you 1979.
By Don Scarborough (family photo) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons
Sure, I can buy a boy’s costume for my girl. Yet, most nine-year-old girls will seek girl options in in a store or catalog.  I was nine once, I didn’t want my brother’s hand-me-down army green parka. Girls don’t want to wear boys’ costumes.  So stealth is required to keep your messages out of the hands of my daughter. Your catalogs go straight into my recycle bin, lest she get the wrong idea.  Yet, I can’t help what other parents allow their daughters to wear when you give us all such limited options.  Sadly, what my daughter doesn’t see at the bottom of my bin has shown up in her elementary school.  Perhaps you are just offering a continuous challenge to my creativity?

Moira is a size twelve youth now and, in most stores, she has only one more size to outgrow before I have to shop for her in the juniors/women’s departments.  The fact that my daughter is physically growing doesn’t trouble me. That’s natural and has to happen.  Her physical growth means she’s healthy. I grew to adult size by fifth grade too, so it’s in her genes.  But she’s not “grown” yet.  She is in fourth grade. She is NINE. My daughter needs to worry about remembering to clear her plate, make her bed, do her homework, and brush her teeth.  She shouldn’t need to worry about too-short skirts and sexy costumes for child-sized children, and quite frankly, neither should I.

Happy Halloween,

The woman whose kid won’t be wearing your crap

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