Musings: Halloween Costumes

Please not that this exists. (Please also note this.)

My favorite has to be the original and redraw of the watermelon costume.

Are you dressing up for Halloween? And how do you feel about the sexification of costumes?

Open Threads are meant to foster chatty fun, and hopefully continue throughout the week until the next one. Please feel free to talk about whatever you like, and do share any links you've written or have read and found interesting and worthy of note.


chris the cynic said...

I've also seen a really cool "centaur" where the hind legs had cables rigged to the wearer's legs (in front) and moved as if the beastie was trotting. I would love to build something like that.

I was thinking centaur style, extra legs rigged to actual ones on diagonals to form a trot. Not surprised others have had, and done, the same idea.

redsixwing said...

2 You know, with a decent frame, some joints, and the proper mechanical linkages, there's no reason a unicorn costume couldn't have four functioning legs.

There are some gorgeous quad suits out there, but they tend to be rather difficult to operate if one does not wish to appear entirely like a human in a costume. They tend to run on arm stilts and clever padding, and it takes a lot of practice to move fluidly on all fours, never mind to do it for hours without one's back deciding to mutiny.

(I may possibly know this from experience. I've been practicing quadrupedal movement for over a year in the hopes of being able to perform well in a quad suit I've not even built yet.)

I've also seen a really cool "centaur" where the hind legs had cables rigged to the wearer's legs (in front) and moved as if the beastie was trotting. I would love to build something like that.

My department at work has gone all out for Halloween, on the theme of "movie theater monsters." I got to be Dracula, so I am wearing a black cloak, ridiculously ruffledy shirt, and a white shawl-collar vest that I finished up last night along with fangs and slicked-back hair. I am enjoying myself quite a bit.

Sexy costumes are one of the things I gripe about pretty much year-round. I like the "give the choice to be designated 'sexy' or not to everyone" option. Also, all the sexy is the same, which is boring (and I don't find particularly interesting, personally).

Boutet said...

Some people legitimately enjoy "sexifying" non-sexual things. You can enjoy a thing ironically or make a joke out of a thing without it being automatically a result of social pressure. Not that I deny the existence of the social pressure but not everyone is motivated by it. I have a cousin who thinks "sexy" innanimate objects as costumes is hilarious.

It goes back to what Michael O'Brien said:
"if the wearer is in the costume because *the wearer* is enjoying it, it's wonderful. If the wearer is in the costume because they feel pressure to wear something like that, it's nauseating"

I don't think there's anything automatically wrong with the odd or ironic "sexy" costumes. It comes down to why the person chose it, and I think that people have lots of reasons beyond social pressure.

I also think there's no reason to limit yourself, your costume or your creativity to existing characters/people/creatures :)

Arresi said...

The people I've met in the "ironic" camp have mostly been of the "aren't you too old for this" or "why are you taking this so seriously" varieties though, so I may have a bit of a kneejerk reaction to that sort of thing. And I'll take your word for it that some of them are doing it for their own pleasure.

It'd be easer to believe if those "sexy" costumes weren't all so damn unimaginative, though. The sexy inanimate objects at least occasionally manage to do something interesting, like the bite in the watermelon. The sexy historical costumes/fictional characters are mostly not sexy in an in-character way or in a well-thought out way, and are just short skirts and tight, midriff-baring tops, regardless of what costume they're based on. Not even zombiefied or vamped up. And cold, on top of that.

chris the cynic said...

Oh, and I posted my second article to the Slacktiverse:
The other side wants to know too
Which is about how I think that the desire expressed in, "I don't want to believe; I want to know," plays a role in fundamentalists embrace of fundamentalism and their opposition to anything that threatens their self created bubble, which (in theory) protects them from doubt and uncertainty.

chris the cynic said...

Oh, and as for dressing up, no. If we could put off Halloween for a bit then I'd certainly consider it, but I haven't made the damn things yet (supposed to be done by the end of summer for fuck's sake) so no.


Oh, and on seeing the aging up of the unicorn costume on the page that has that, my thought was something like this:

1 Cloven Hooves! Unicorns have cloven hooves.
2 You know, with a decent frame, some joints, and the proper mechanical linkages, there's no reason a unicorn costume couldn't have four functioning legs.

Gina Langridge said...

More options for everyone would be good! Where are the sexy men's costumes for a start? As a woman, if I wanted to dress up as tinky winky I could just wear a "men's" costume, but a guy who wants to dress up sexily doesn't seem to have much choice.

I'm hoping to have all the neighbours' children dropping in for treats tonight; I'll be answering the door in my usual clothes, maybe with a cloak and a witches hat.

When I was a kid, the UK didn't do Halloween but I used to dress up as a witch or a ghost with a couple of friends, and run up and down the street in the wind. It was fun!

chris the cynic said...

My first thought was, for reasons unknown to me, "Boudicca," and when I looked at the page it was displaying Boudicca.

EdinburghAAAAAAAAAGH said...

I daresay there are parts of the UK (and even my own city) where adults get dressed up for Hallowe'en, but honestly, what I see is mostly kids doing it - and mostly kids who are young enough to go out guising. (I wrote about guising in my Happy Hallowe'en post: there's no trick-or-treat element in it, though you do hear kids yelling "Trick or treat" as a greeting when the door is opened, but as far as I can tell they don't associate the phrase with anything beyond a Hallowe'eny thing to say.) The pre-adolescents who symbolically represent those who died in the previous year have come to the opened door: they are welcomed with gifts of food. (Well, okay, these days it's cash, not food, that's wanted.) If you don't want to participate, you don't go to the door..

Today a prolife MP has secured a debate in the House of Commons on lowering the abortion limit to 20 weeks, and I have successfully got at least a few people to write to their MP to ask them to speak against this, so I'm hopeful that the debate will go badly for her.

The post I was most pleased with myself for finishing this week, though, is a long and full-of-cites piece on why house prices in the UK have been rising so fast and who's actually to blame for that. (It is not, in my view, the "fault" of working-class families who bought the council house they rented: they're just a convenient target.)

Today is my last day at my current job: my post is being made redundant due to funding cuts. So there's that.

storiteller said...

I think if you want to dress up like a sexy character (aka every female superhero ever, unfortunately) or randomly a sexy inanimate object because it's funny, that's fine. The fact that the "female" versions of those costumes must be sexy is unfortunate and a sign of ever-rampant sexism, but not the worst part for me. The stuff I find really wrong and icky is sexualizing stuff associated with children. The Sesame Street characters are are a step too weird for me, but the really wrong ones are the "sexy Girl Scout" costumes (like this one: I hate the message that sends to little girls and the ideas associated with it.

Personally, the "sexiness" of my costume is strictly based on what I want to go as. When I went as Artemis, it was sexier than usual because Greek goddess costumes are inherently somewhat revealing. Same with going as a zombie cheerleader. On the other hand, this year I went as Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games, who is one of the least traditionally sexy (albeit not sexualized) modern female characters.

Kristy said...

I am so dressing up for Halloween :-) My costume depends on which costume piece I can find first: if it's my corset, I will be a proper Victorian lady. If it's the fake moustaches, I will be a proper Victorian gentleman. :D (the rest of the costumes - clothes and accessories and appropriate hats - I of course already have, because I'm just that much of a geek.)

On sexy costumes... honestly, while I do see why they can be problematic, it's a "pick your battles" sort of thing. If I decide to mind sexy costumes, I will be angry on Halloween. And Halloween is one of my very favorite holidays, and I absolutely do not want to spend it angry. So I don't mind sexy costumes. I have the whole rest of the year to be concerned about such things; Halloween is mine.

Anonymus said...

P.S. Michael you look great in that vinylly thing. Are you Alice from Alice in Wonderland or what?

Michael O'Brien said...

Yep, I've always enjoyed the Alice stories, and finally I decided that Wonderland was an odd enough place that I wouldn't have to shave ;)

Gelliebean said...

Oooh, I like that link! Wish I'd known about it earlier, so I am keeping it marked for next year.

When I was growing up, my family never had anything to do with Halloween. The first time I ever dressed up was for a work thing, where my department all wore black dresses and witch hats. Since then, I think Halloween has fallen on a weekend? so this year is the first chance I've had to make a costume again, and I'm broke.... :-p

So I'm going as a Christmas present. ^_^;; Big giant bow on my head, and little package ornaments as earrings, ribbon coming off my arms, and I'll probably cut some wrapping paper to put somewhere too. I may not be trained in Halloween, but I rule at Christmas decorating.

Brin Bellway said...

I have an entirely non-sexualised Winnie the Pooh costume for trick-or-treating. It's warm on chilly evenings and encourages those who might think eighteen (worse, 23/24ths) is too old for trick-or-treating to mistake me for twelve or thirteen.

Winnie the Pooh is a bit too warm for indoor parties, so I cobbled together an Eleventh Doctor costume out of stuff from the thrift store (necklace that looks like a bowtie, jacket, suspenders), stuff from my dad's closet (shirt, trousers), and the fez I got for my birthday last year. I considered wearing it door-to-door as well, but I'm worried it's not sufficiently conducive to presenting as a child. (Policy at our house is to offer adult chaperones candy as well, but all too many people don't share that practice.)

When I was nine, I wanted to be a wood-fairy. Mom ended up making the costume because the fairy costumes in stores were all short dresses and not warm enough. (I particularly liked her dark green fuzzy cloak. Beautiful and practical.)

Tigerpetals said...

Oh thank you so much! I'd been looking for that site and couldn't find it again. I knew I wouldn't make my own costume and most likely wouldn't dress up, but I got caught up just looking at the costumes and the explanations.

Anonymus said...

I totally tried to link you to that in the open thread but the comment wouldn't post because Discus hates me. Luckily, you read my mind and found it on your own.

Anyway, I think if people want to wear sexy costumes then they should but there should be choices available for those who want to dress in a less revealing manner. Also, the thing that struck me the most was: male costume: LOOKS LIKE THE THING. female costume: BOOBS AND MIDRIFT (aside from that what's she supposed to be?), which Anna said above me but I noticed it too.

As a kid I always had homemade costumes, sometimes made by myself. I'd draw my own little mask or come up with my own concept and sure it was obvious that my costume was homemade, especially when I was the one making the costume, and it was always generally cheap stuff, but even looking back I think my costumes were really cool, and the time I was really happy with them. Generally the stuff I wanted to be was pretty creative and couldn't be found in stores because I didn't want to be Elmo I wanted to be a glass of orange juice or whatever, so my mother would get me an orange sweatshirt and make a straw out of felt or whatever. As an adult I've never had a need to wear a costume but that may change someday. If I do, I think I'll stick to coming up with my own strange idea and then making a costume with some cardboard and glitter like I did as a kid. Maybe one year I'll be a Sierpinski triangle.

Randomosity said...

At my local party supply store, they have pictures of costumes displayed in the front window. Boys costumes look like the thing and look like they'd fit over jackets (I live in a northern climate - it gets cold here on Halloween). Girl costumes are short dresses no matter what the costume is supposed to be. It doesn't look like what it is and it also doesn't look like it would fit over a jacket. These are little kid trick or treating costumes. Adult costumes are pretty much one and all: Men - it is what it would be. Women - short skirt and crop top.

If you want a really good range of costumes and have money to spend, rent one from a theatrical supply store or maybe your local theater often opens the costume shop and rents.

If you are crafty, you can check out some of these costumes of real world historical figures and women from myths and legendary glamour girls.

The costumes and people they portray come with an explanation of how to make the costume, who the character is, some facts about the character, and not one of them is oversexualized.

Arresi said...

Our heater isn't working right, and I've got no expectation of any visitors (not many kids around here) so I'll be wearing my warm Halloween sweatshirt (lime green with white ghosts embroidered on the chest, with "Boo!" embroidered in black below) with jeans instead of my "Clio, Greek muse of history," costume (supposed to be Athena, but I'm a bit short on spears and helms, and long on books and scrolls of paper).

As for the sexy costuming - sort of mixed. Generally, what the people above said. With one caveat - I'd never say anything about a woman dressing like Morticia Addams, Marilyn Monroe, or a female Tarzan in breastband and loincloth. The "sexy" Sesame Street characters? "Sexy" Pilgrims? That doesn't feel like pushing comfort boundaries (no criticism of Boutet's argument meant) - it seems more like being socially pressured, either into dressing in a sexy or infantile fashion at all times, or into celebrating a holiday "ironically". (I mean, if you just wanted to dress up in a revealing costume, there's dozens of superheroines, popstars, movie characters, etc. Right?)

Will Wildman said...

I guess it's the same as the tension in being sex-positive and rejecting objectification and sticking closely to rules of consent. Yes, it's fine if you like it, but it should be fine if you don't, and there should be options for people who don't want to take part, or who do want to take part but don't fit the industrial standards of people who are supposed to take part, and the pressure/expectation in any direction needs to be cut way the heck down.

There's a principle for which I'm not aware of a standard name - when I think of it, I think of the Bechdel-Wallace Test, which also functions on said principle: it's not about the individual case, it's about the improbability of the overwhelming pattern (and the factors that contribute to it). Any individual sexy costume is wevs. A vast inequality in the sexification of female- and male-oriented costuming is a symptom of a culture that tells women to be sexy all the time for the enjoyment of men. (The specific men who like this specific kind of sexy, that is. Variations are verboten.)

I am not costuming this year (to my knowledge; I guess costume ninjas could bust into my apartment and leave me something really compelling). I haven't in some years. Next time I do, I figure it's either got to be ultra-subtle (perfectly normal clothes plus black sclera contacts) or completely over the top (the full tattered robes of the King In Yellow, or borrow someone's kid for this thing.)

Isator Levi said...

I can't really comment on "sexy" costumes in a context of personally encountering them, since that's a kind of thing that I tend to kind of drift over (I have an odd, and slightly distracting tendency to get rather asexual in the company of actual people).

I have college tomorrow, so I'm not certain if I'll have an opportunity to put on my costume of the past few years; a lab coat covered in blood splatters, streaks, and handprints, with crazy spiral protective eyewear.

I'm rather proud of it; I made it up by getting my brother to put the coat on while I applied the blood, so it would more accurately resemble the shape of something applied to a person while... experimenting. >:)

I guess, on that subject, my main, personal criticism of sexy costumes is that they distract from inventively macabre costumes. There's a certain satisfaction in children (and occasionally parents) being a little bit put off when the door is opened to them.

graylor said...

I'm with the 'if someone wants to wear a sexy costume, more power to them' crowd. I don't quite grok the 'sexy sesame street' costumes and their kind. I just... what? But if people want to be ironic or whatever they're doing, eh.

As for myself, I'm going to be a wood witch, Which is to say, my mother made me a poet's shirt many years ago, I made myself a belt-corset-thing, and I made a wrap-around skirt with oaks leaves on it. Warm, comfortable, and I get to wear a nifty hat (courtesy of the dollar store--I never imagined it would be hard to find a witch hat in mid-October. Bah, Humbug, Christmas season starts after Black Friday, and I refuse to acknowledge it until then. So there.).


I have a question for the tropers in the audience. Okay, so we know this scene: our heroine, who is somewhere on the scale from tomboy to average woman, meets love interest's mother/sister/some other woman important to the plot. This new woman performs femininity flawlessly: merely being in the same room with this woman shames our heroine to some degree or another. She can never have such womanly power, how can anyone love or respect her, she feels like a schoolgirl, a boy, or a mess, woe, woe. This can result in a makeover montage, but does this uncomfortable scene itself have a name?

Examples: Discovery of Witches when Dianna meets Matthew's mother. Possibly Bella vs Those Who Glitter in the Lunchroom. I believe Ana in Fifty Shades of Gray has at least one of these, again, with the mother of the love interest. Others I can't actually remember, though I know I've seen this before.

Loquat said...

I'm not dressing up for Halloween, but I did go to a post-zombie-apocalypse LARP over the weekend in which dressing up in keeping with the theme was strongly encouraged - and by the very nature of the theme, just about everyone had made their own costumes. One fellow in particular seemed to be wearing ginormous football pads on his shoulders, and possibly some other bulky "body armor" pieces with a large black cloak over the top covering everything, which made him a very imposing figure even without the large boffer sword and shield. I was somewhat less imposing, in my ratty jeans, t-shirt, and sweatshirt halfassedly converted into a jacket.

It was cold enough that nobody much wanted to bare any midriff, but there were quite a few women around showing off cleavage. I think it's safe to assume there'll be a lot of flesh bared at the summer events.

Anna said...

Seconding what other people on this thread have already said: nothing wrong with sexy costumes* if they're what people choose to wear, but it should be a choice - and there should be a reasonable number of non-sexy options. Also, some of the costumes on the tumblr are so focused on the "sexy" part that they seem to forget to actually look like the thing they're supposed to be costumes of, and that just baffles me, but again, whatever floats your boat.

I don't tend to buy costumes, as awkwardly-sized breasts mean a lot of store costumes won't fit right over my top half. I'm going to a Halloween party this year as a non-sexy pirate (jeans, striped shirt, bandana with skull&crossbones on it, plastic cutlass). Thing is, I'd actually quite like to go as a somewhat-sexier pirate, if I could find a costume that worked with my body. I wanted this one: - it doesn't show more skin than I'm comfortable with, and the lacing at the front should be adjustable to make room for breasts, but it's strapless, and I've never been able to acquire a strapless bra that fits me.

So in summary: clothing! It should have more options! More options for everyone!

*Caveat: unless they're something like "sexy native American", which sadly has not one but two examples on the linked tumblr, but that costume is wrong because of the cultural appropriation/misrepresentation involved, not because of the sexiness.

Michael O'Brien said...

As someone who often participates in and enjoys convention cosplay, and as a biological male who owns several "sexy" cosplay dresses, my own take on the issue has become this: if the wearer is in the costume because *the wearer* is enjoying it, it's wonderful. If the wearer is in the costume because they feel pressure to wear something like that, it's nauseating.

Boutet said...

I'm back and forth about sexy costumes. I think it's great that people can embrace their bodies and wear something that is not their every day work clothing. I have several friends who love Halloween in part because they can wear "sexy" clothing in public without putting themselves completely in the spot light. They can push their own comfort boundaries and try new things, but still have the comfort of being part of a crowd. I love that for the same reason that I love non-standard "beautiful" body types dressing up for cosplay at conventions. It's wonderful that people can enjoy something for themselves in the face of a society that would probably ridicule them for doing so.
On the other hand... I wish it wasn't quite so expected of women. It would be nice if there were non-"sexy" options available without having to start from scratch with a homemade costume. Not everyone knows their way around a sewing machine (or has access to one) and the sizes of women's costumes are generally not a wide range.

(I'm putting "sexy" and "beautiful" in quotation marks because it's more of a societal view, and I don't buy into that view. I think sexy and beautiful are personal and unique to individuals.)

Lady Viridis said...

I usually dress up and go to a quiet party with friends. Generally my friends and I get our costume elements from Goodwill and/or our actress friend who has a ton of costume pieces collected. This year I'm going as Indiana Jones, one of the more complicated costumes I've done recently-- though most of the pieces will probably be reworn in other outfits throughout the year (especially the hat; it's an awesome hat). Last year I was a Mad Scientist. I think the year before I was a 20's Flapper. Mostly I try to aim for something comfortable that can be done with everyday clothing and some accessories; I don't really sew and I don't usually have time to put together anything if I did.

I don't like the sexy costumes mostly because I feel like they're expected, and because they're so often skimpy and impractical. If you want to be sexy, go for it, but if you live in a cold climate, there should be options that provide fully-covered "sexy" costumes instead of the miniskirt and crop top that seems to be the default.

Ymfon Tviergh said...

Congratulations on the prayer! My Latin is too shaky to tell, but the English version at least is HILARIOUS.

Karen Edie said...

The state of commercially-made Halloween costumes is generally appalling, and the "sexy" costumes are just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of it is simple economics -- who wants to pay more than $20 or so for something silly they're going to wear once, after all? -- so the costumes have to be made as cheaply as possible. This means that absolutely nothing is going to fit anyone properly, since tailoring and fabrics that allow for halfway decent construction are expensive. "Fortunately," for a certain body type, wrapping part of the torso in half a yard of stretchy fabric actually looks okay, is easy and inexpensive, and can be adapted to a wide variety of concepts.

Unfortunately, I don't actually find this style of costume to be sexy so much as just trashy. Sexy is loving your body and flaunting its assets, and that doesn't really happen in a one-size-fits-all garment designed to barely meet societal standards of public decency. It smacks of desperately trying to live up to impossible standards. I don't mind that there are sexy costumes, and it would be better if there were non-sexy options, but what really, really bothers me is the fact that there's only one model of sexiness portrayed. Fer chrissakes, bikini designers can figure this out, is it too much to ask that costume manufacturers follow suit?

Will Wildman said...

The discussion of horse suits reminds me of the Unitaur from a fantasy improv serial I saw last summer. The Unitaur (which is of course unicorn in the front and human in the back) involved someone wearing a unicorn mask/hood, tight white clothes, and arm stilt things. The actor himself was amazing with physicality, bending and swaying and rearing, so rather than looking like a really bad horse costume, it was clearly supposed to be wrong and creepy, like a horse with spider legs. One character, forced to duel it alone, summed it up pretty well with the reluctant battle cry "You are a creature of all of my nightmares!"

So that's one way of handling questionable horse costuming.

Silver Adept said...

I went to work as the Ghost of Hockey Seasons Past (and Present), which mostly involved wearing a sweater for a team that no longer exists (the San Francisco Spiders) with a plush bean toy pinned to the left shoulder and cargo pants. Most of the time, my costumes are "what can I do that involves what I already own?". Perhaps at some point, I can have a costume budget.

As for the "sexy" items, I'm mostly with the crew of "if you want to go sexy, go sexy", but I'd like to be able to have that extend to all days of the year, with no ill effects or assumptions toward anyone who wants to go sexy - it shouldn't take Topsy-Turvy Days, Costume Day, or a Temporary Autonomous Zone to allow people to dress the way they want to.

MaryKaye said...

I went to work wearing a layered black dress with a blue-violet spiderweb cape over it, and spider jewelry including little ones dangling across my forehead. Consensus was that I was a witch, which was basically what I was aiming for. My academic department put a big emphasis on dress-up this year, so we got a nice group photo of the Witches of Genome Sciences. (One witch had DNA symbols on her hat.)

There wasn't a lot of skin, except for a male Faun who showed a LOT of skin (and looked great in it--the ears were particularly a nice touch). Lots of witches, a cosplay Cat Warrior Woman, genetics jokes, Dr. Who, Teletubbies and the like, historical figures--a big mix of themes.

Seattle has a lot of zombies this year--I ran in a zombie-tag race and about 1/3 of the participants were done up as zombies. But at dance events you see the short skirt/midriff crowd, looking a bit chilly--the photos from the Freakshow dance were pretty much like that. A bit of male skin too.

I love dressing up. Don't mind sexy as long as it doesn't become a gendered default. Love horror more, though. My own very best costume was a blue-skinned, feathery alien--full face and arms paint, feathers glued over my eyebrows and growing in tufts out of my wrists. It was awful getting the glue out of my eyebrows afterwards, but it was worth it. Someone came into my office to ask a question, I turned around and they did a wonderful jump-back-in-alarm.

I also remember with fondness the time we had martial arts class on Halloween, and when sensei turned around after bowing to the front we had all put on blood-stained white headbands (surreptitiously carried in our gi's). He said "OnegaishiWhatTheHell?" instead of "Onegaishimasu" and a senior student said, "Last class was a little rough, sensei" in a perfectly meek tone of voice.

Then he made us wear them all class long, to the consternation of everyone who looked in the window! I was the one who arranged for the headbands, and I was inordinately proud of them. A prank that hurts no one is a fine thing to discover.

Lonespark said...

I haven't dressed up as an adult but once. I always want to, but I'm not so good with the time management. My kids are going as Batwoman (or Batgirl? Not sure) and Batman. Son's costume goes over his clothes and covers them up and is warm and one-piece. Daughter's costume looks awesome, with a separate cape and arm band things , but it doesn't cover her clothes and seems like a short dress designed to be work alone, which is no go in this climate. I suppose if she owned tights or leggings and a turtleneck she'd be set, but that's extra pieces to factor in to keep the kid warm.

The so-called sexy costumes are boring, the so-called historical costumes are extremely innacurate if not straight-up racist. The whole thing would be improved by more sexy dude costumes and license for dudes to be Gazed upon. Where's my sexy Iron Man and sexier-than-usual Captain America? Probably I should hang out at more parties catering to gay men if I want this? (IRL, as opposed to sixty billion kinkmeme posts.)

I was just thinking earlier I would really like to get involved with some Legend of Korra cosplay.

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