As a little kid, I went to a school where we had to wear uniforms. There was no forethought that went into my clothing other than to hope there was a clean uniform in my closet. But on Halloween, all bets were off, and we kids were allowed to come in costume.
Oh, how I loved Halloween! It combined my two favorite things in the whole world—copious amounts of chocolate and tons of creativity. My sisters and I would spread out our haul at the end of trick-or-treating and organize our piles by types of chocolate bars. I literally tossed out anything that wasn’t chocolate; it held zero appeal to me.
But as much as I looked forward to collecting a ton of candy, the truth was, I was even more excited about dressing up. I think it was because I could eat chocolate every day (and I did and still do), but I wasn’t at liberty to BE someone else every day. There was something exhilarating about slipping into a costume, knowing that absolutely anything was okay.
My costume choices tended to reflect my interests – an artist with a jaunty beret, Laura Ingalls Wilder with two long braids, a doctor with a white coat and stethoscope -- and I frequently chose to dress up as a person I admired in real life.
I was fascinated by the kids who were less conservative than I, the ones who chose gory or terrifying costumes. What did it mean to them? Was it a chance to tap into some darker part of their human nature? Was it the thrill of being scary? And I was impressed by the kids who turned themselves into elaborate inanimate objects, like Rubik’s cubes or the Eiffel Tower.
Looking back, I realize that my girlfriends wore a much broader variety of costumes than the little girls I see today. Although I remember a smattering of little girls who dressed as ballerinas or fairies, the Disney Princesses as a brand didn’t exist in the 70’s and the 80’s, so there were no Belles or Ariels or Tianas running around.
And the whole sexy thing wasn’t a factor when I was a kid either. I am one of four sisters, and when I recall our years of dressing up, we rarely had fancy store-bought costumes. We rummaged around the house, combining this and that, until we had been transformed into Peter Pan or a clown or a witch or Little Orphan Annie. Looking fetching or attractive to boys was not even on our radar when we picked our costumes. That would have seriously dampened our options.
Earlier today, I took my three little girls to look for Halloween costumes. The choices for girls went something like this: sexy witch, sexy princess, sassy fairy, sassy vampire, sexy superhero, etc. It’s funny; there we were at a store with literally wall after wall of costumes, yet I felt like there were no options. Every costume was a slightly different version of the same thing: a sexy something. It was boring.
But the truth is, my toddler’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree when she walked past the wall of toddler princess costumes. The dresses, the tiaras and wands, the high-heeled glittery shoes – it all beckoned to her. She desperately wanted to jam a tiara onto her afro and wedge her chubby baby feet into a pair of heels. All day, she had been insisting that she wanted to be a pumpkin, but that flew right out the window when she saw the Cinderellas and Tinker Bells on display. They didn’t even offer a pumpkin costume in the toddler size. I asked around and a clerk found a pumpkin costume in the infant size, 6-24 months. Happily, my toddler is so tiny that we stuffed her into the pumpkin costume and it fit and she loved it, so we grabbed it and beat a hasty retreat past the enticing princess costumes before she changed her mind.
Last year, my oldest daughter wore the most kickass Stormtrooper costume a kid could ever hope for, handmade for her by the 501st Legion. The story of how she came by it is epic. Nothing she ever wears will top that (and sadly, she has grown SO much in the past year that it is too small. We are looking to donate it to a Make-A-Wish kid, so please let us know if there is an 8 or 9-yr-old in your life who may qualify). This year, my oldest was torn between Padme Amidala and a vampire. In the end, the vampire won out, since we discovered that she has also outgrown her Padme outfit!
My 6-yr-old saw a plastic sword on the wall that sent her into spasms of excitement, so she decided she must be a pirate. She will borrow her older sister’s black eye patch (a daily requirement as part of the dreaded ongoing treatment for amblyopia), and she is going to wear striped leggings and a black and red dress.
So my young daughters will be a vampire, a pirate, and a pumpkin. Not a sexy vampire, not a sexy pirate and certainly not a sexy pumpkin. Frankly, if one of them had wanted to be a princess, that would have been fine, too, but we would have worked to put together a better princess costume than the ones we saw in the store. It’s not the princess part that bothers me at all. It’s the sexy that I don’t like. There are some incredible princess costumes that kids could wear, costumes that involve awesome fabrics and lovely details, and maybe one day one of my girls will want that. As long as the costumes aren’t about making my elementary and preschool girls look sexy, I’m okay with whatever they choose.
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