Here’s Why Little Girls’ Sexy Halloween Costumes Are Terrifying

Blog author Melissa Wardy, circa 1981.

That is me, to the left, as a four year old in 1981. I’ll give you a minute to take in my hair.

I am, very obviously, quite awesome in my Wonder Woman costume.

Know what I am not? Sexy. At four years old, I was not sexy. There is nothing sexy about a four year old. Any four year old. EVER.

My parents knew this, which is why I was very appropriately dressed for a chilly night of trick-or-treating in the Pittsburgh suburbs with a turtleneck, warm tights under my 80’s track shorts, and high top sneakers. I am the four year old version of Wonder Woman, a homemade costume thanks to my very creative mother (who would have just given birth to her third child in 4 years).

I always wore homemade Halloween costumes, right up until 6th grade when I was a gypsy fortune teller and enjoyed my last year of trick-or-treating. My mother wasn’t a seamstress, she just expected us to be creative and thrifty. When I worked as a nanny in college, we largely pieced together the kid’s costumes from stuff we had at home.

Then something happened, and I can’t quite put my finger on how or why, but Halloween became porny.

In these parts, starting mid-August, the Halloween super-stores move into vacant retail space with a short term lease and a truck load of cheaply-made costumes fresh off the Chinese shipping container, all of which resemble porny versions of character xyz in what is essentially a repackaged French maid uniform. If you cut out the busty, leggy models wearing the costumes and stacked the photos on top of each other, they would all look the same. The formula is so predictable, it is boring: tight lace-up bodice revealing a lot of boob, short petti-coat skirt, knee high socks or a pair of fishnets and tall boots. Throw in a lollipop and pair of roller skates and you’ve got a 70’s adult film.

Actually, the whole pornography tie-in isn’t all that far off. In my local Halloween super store, my kids call it the Goody Bloody Store, almost all of the costumes they carry are by a company called Leg Avenue. On the website the costumes look very pretty….in the store they looked thin and cheap. Leg Avenue also makes lingerie, burlesque show wear, club wear, and pasties. Some of their stuff is tasteful – very sexy and very adult. As a sex positive adult, I can appreciate that. But it just seems odd to me that I can go from the page selling pasties and burlesque booty shorts and in three clicks be on Cutie Bug or Beautiful Butterfly costume, size Child Small. My real problem with the costumes is that the evolution of a child’s costume to teen costume to adult costume isn’t that far off from each other. They all fit the French maid costume equation, and the youth costumes carry culturally coded wardrobe components that, in the past, had been signals for adult sex work: fishnets, lace up bodices, bustiers, high heeled knee-high boots, knee socks and bare upper thighs, booty shorts, etc.

Somewhere along the line, Halloween stopped being about scariness and fantasy, and became a holiday of packaged sex. When every store you go in to is carrying these sexy children’s costumes, and has been for years, it stops being a one-season market fluke, and becomes a reflection of our culture. What the market bears is a litmus test of our society.

What the Halloween market (and girls’ toy market and tween clothing market and ex-Disney-star media market) has proven is that culturally we seem to have no problem with our girls becoming sexually objectified, and that no age is too young for this. How the heads of parents are not exploding nationwide is beyond me. Our young daughters are being encouraged to trick-or-treat in costumes that make them look like the girl who shows up to a bachelor party carrying her own boom box and a pair of handcuffs.

But the market bears it, because collectively we buy it. For those of us not buying it, too few of us are speaking up against it. The children aren’t to blame, they don’t know better, and they naturally want to be/feel/appear grown up. How many parents are taking the time to go up to the store manager and express their disappointment over the sexy costumes choices offered, and make the point that their money will be spent elsewhere? How many parents are organizing costume exchange parties, or setting up clothing swap tables in someones driveway to piece together creative, homemade costumes? How many parents are calling school, expressing concern that on Halloween dress up day, the 5th grade girls were dressed as Little Lolitas while the boys had costumes that kept them fully covered? How many parents have given up on creativity and are buying the Rainbow Cutie costume for $26.99? How many girls are getting the message to project their sexuality as a display for others, rather than a feeling and experience inside?

Going one step further, what message does it send to the men and boys who view our daughters? When we allow them to dress at young ages in this highly sexualized way, we not only support an industry that thrives on sexually objectifying women, we are reinforcing the sexist views some men/boys may hold and the notion that females are just sexual playthings. What message do we send to predators who are already viewing our young daughters as sex objects? We are telling them that their sexual feelings towards children are not all that taboo, that as parents we are allowing that bar to slide. Parents who buy these costumes and allow their children to wear them, especially in public, reinforce the notion that it is not taboo to have sexual fantasy touch the life of a child. Children as sexual playthings is a taboo that must stay firmly in place.

So while I roll my eyes at the predictability of all of these sexy Halloween costumes reflecting the very male San Fernando Valley porny gaze, I also get a chill down my spine because of the lack of outrage from parents. Just as 1973 Deep Throat pornography star Linda Lovelace foresaw, pornography has indeed become mainstream, and it is now available in children’s sizes. That? Is terrifying to me.

Kids Police Officer costume.

Adult Police costume.


Child's Lion costume.

Adult Wild Kitty costume.


  1. I work for a company that does package design for the largest retailers in the world. We put together the Halloween program for one of them, and I’m shocked every year by the photos and costumes that come through our office. Shocked that costume companies develop these, more shocked that the supposedly conservative retailer’s buyer opts to sell them, and still more shocked that parents actually purchase them. We, too, made all of our costumes from scratch growing up. To be fair, my mom stayed home with us. I’m sure the working mom part of the equation leads to buying them now. That said, it doesn’t explain why they would choose to buy slutty costumes.

    • Ever thought about telling your boss you don’t want to design the packaging (or don’t think your company should design) for these clients because of the messages that are contained?

      I’m not being critical… I’m curious. What do you think would happen if you mentioned something?

  2. My friends dread this time of year because they know I will be like a broken record. I agree 1,000% and even wrote about this last year. This will be the first year I have bought my daughter a costume. Previously I have made all of them. She wants to be a witch and she asked me to buy a costume this year. I scoured the costume website looking for something I thought would be appropriate. Once I limited the choices I let her pick which one she wanted. None of that was hard to do. It didn’t take any longer than going through and buying something trashy. Like you I don’t get why parents just don’t pay attention.

  3. I fully agree with you. And every time I complain about this, all I hear is “That is what they send us, you are welcome to not buy it,” and a dirty look from sales person or manager. And parents will tell me, “Oh, it looks like a ballerina costume, just add a long sleeve top underneath it!” or “How cute!” Thank god my husband sees such costumes and his head almost explodes every time. HE GETS IT. That is why I also do not wear any such costumes because then my daughters want to wear something like that as well.

    But I think Moms get so mindlessly flattered at their daughters wanting to be like them that they forget what a little girl should not be allowed to wear and what the long term effects will be with stuff like this. How many times do you see a sexy dressed mom and her 4 year old dressed like her in public? I see it all the time.

    Thank god my husband gets it. Thank god even more that my kids are getting it and point to those costumes and say “Mommy! Daddy! Look! Oh my gosh, that is sooooo not appropriate for little girls like me!” really loudly in the store so that other moms and kids can hear it and see that even other kids think it’s not ok.

    I always think back to the two girls who dressed as French maids in our middle school dance. How everyone stared at them. How everyone called them sluts. How they both got pregnant and never graduated high school.

    • some girls will do anything for attention. If they aren’t getting attention at home then they will get it elsewhere. Even negative attention is better than no attention at all. It’s a shame that everyone judged them instead of trying to help them.

      • Yeah, I never really talked to them, they were very mean and hostile toward me and many others. It’s not very reasonable for a kid who’s 12 and who gets picked on by said bully to try to reach out and help the bully. Even if they were doing the french maid costume for attention. There were plenty of adults nearby and I’m sure they tried what they could but when someone doesn’t want help and is nasty toward people, there is not much others can do. And in the meantime, those around get hurt verbally or physically by this person who has issues?
        Anyway, my point is that those girls already had reputations and the costumes cemented their reputation and their parents should have thought about that. I mean, at age 12, Mommy and Daddy are buying your Halloween costume still.

    • I agree with your idea that mom’s are so flattered at their daughters wanting to be like them. There are a lot of selfish people out there who do not see children as the social/emotional humans they are, but as little clones of themselves.

  4. I shudder to think of the comments this post may get about the “harmlessness” of these outfits. You know, from the same people who support Toddlers and Tiaras.

    Great point. Some changes are difficult to enact. But this is one that isn’t: stop buying this trash and the companies will stop making it. Not only that, but it will normalize non-sexy costumes for girls again.

  5. i am so with you. i cannot believe i was actually embarassed by what my kids saw when we went to the halloween shop last year, so this year i went online to buy them a costume, and you would’ve thought we had accidently gone to an “adult” site.

    the monster high costumes we came across are so outrageous i told my kids forget it to buying a costume at all.

    we’re going to make our own, and my kids are going to like it! (i hope)

  6. My kids school has a Halloween parade every year and I always notice this sort of thing. No one else seems to care that there are way too many sexy baby cheerleaders and witches. The Disney costumes aren’t great,either. Princess Jasmine, especially.
    The only request the school makes is that costumes not be “horror” in nature. That makes sense but I don’t know why it hasn’t been addressed that costumes be age appropriate,too (yes, I’ve been meaning to bring it to the attention of the correct personnel…).

    • Lemme see if I’ve got this… A vampire or zombie might be discouraged because of the “horror” restriction but it’s perfectly fine for prepubescent children to be costumed in ways that the photographs could be used as bait in a child pornography sting? Hmmm… so, it’s fine to make our children more vulnerable to predators (and it DOES make them more vulnerable if sexy costumes and lots of skin seem normal to them for dress up/play) but it’s not ok to let them BE the predator or scary thing?

      • yep, you got it right. It strikes me as odd too because in the jr high (grades 5-8), they have a very strict dress code that seems to be aimed at mostly girls…no hemlines more than 5 inches above the knee, no v-necks,no tank tops,no undergarments showing,etc. It seems like it’s common sense that it should apply to all grades, unless they just think it goes without saying. But really, some people you have to spell it out for them.

    • I remember back when “Aladdin” came out, and they had Princess Jasmine costumes. Wanna know how they were made? They were one-piece jumpsuits with a maybe two-inch strip of tan fabric between the shirt and pants. I remember my cousin wearing one for Halloween. Nowadays. they’re actual two-piece outfits, and the distance between shirt and pants is WAY more than two inches.

      I also remember dressing up as a blue version of I Dream of Jeannie when I was six, with the headdress and everything. The pants were specifically high-waisted and had a big belt. Yes, it was a two-piece costume, and yes a bit of my stomach was showing, but it was way less skin than costumes are showing now for six year old girls.

    • Robert Truppe says:

      I believe the school administers can’t spell or count correctly. They should specify Horror and or Whore.

  7. Hear hear! Last Halloween I went off on a rant while at the costume shop with my family, The boys/mens’ costumes were great in their range/diversity. The womens’ and girls’ section consisted of exactly what you described- lingerie-type of costumes with slight modifications to fit whatever character they were playing. It’s disgusting, yes, but it’s also… boring! Why can’t us ladies be a scary zombie or a doctor that isn’t as “sexy” doctor, or a lion that doesn’t wear a skirt? Why do all of the female costumes have to be “sexed” up? This article also makes me think of that scene in “mean girls” when the main character (who had been home schooled for years) showed up at a costume party and felt embarrassed for being dressed as a zombie bride since all of the other girls were basically in lingerie.

  8. Excellent post as always. There is so much that is wrong with the way Halloween is marketed: cheap, probably toxic costumes; and limitations on girls since they are rarely shown being anything other than ornamental (I did a quick perusal of a local costume vendor and under the category of girls’ heroes and villains there were three short-skirted options. There were 40 fully-clothed heroes and villains for boys to choose from. But sexualization is the worst aspect. I linked to a post about this a couple of years ago from the Responsible Men blog. It’s also worth a read. .

  9. I agree times infinity. I wrote a post my self about it last week. It’s ridiculous.

    I plan to contact the buyers of both Walmart & Zellers (2 of my local big boxes) and voice my complaint. I won’t be buying costumes there anymore. I bought online this year too, and I pre-selected my daughters costume before she could see the prosti-tot ensembles.

    It’s truly disgusting what these people want us to dress our daughters in.

  10. I am sorry, I have a 5 year old and a 6 year old. There is NO way they would be allowed to wear those clothes until they are out of my house over 18 or not!!! NO! This year we will have Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and Snow White. Both are bought costumes from the thrift store (thank you mom!!) Dorothy will have to be taken in as it is a size 10 but it comes past her knees and up to her neck! ALL covered!! Snow White is floor length, and long sleeves, and again.. to her neck!!! My children will also will wear bathing suits that cover their bodies!!

  11. I make my girls’ costumes. Period. I may be going overboard in having them grow up with modesty apparent in their clothing choices, because they feel uncomfortable if their pants ride low or the shirt has spaghetti straps or they don’t have bike shorts or leggings on under a dress. But you know what? GOOD. Maybe it’ll even out once they get older and the primary clothing choices in stores and on their friends are … let’s just say “revealing” and avoid the profanity I’m thinking 🙂

  12. This is why I bought my 2YO’s costume at Old Navy. They have costumes that are actually comfortable looking and covering. Some that were borderline but I thought this one was pretty decent:

    I love the idea of making your own but that’s not in the cards for us this year.

  13. It is scary.

    There is no way that my daughter will wear anything like that! Hell, I won’t even wear most of that stuff.

  14. I am personally less disturbed by the sexualized aspect of these costumes than I am by the sexism of them, although I haven’t looked around that much (my daughter is still young enough that costumes cover her fully). The little girl’s lion costume above doesn’t bother me – I actually think it’s cute (the adult woman’s dress, however…). The petticoat dress comes down to her knees, and petticoat dresses were originally the realm of young girls, after all. It is in fact women who co-opted them, shortened them, and turned them into Lolita-fantasies (the word lolita implies that the woman is infantalizing herself, not that the girl is striving to be adult). I would put a long-sleeved shirt under it, however, since it just isn’t weather-appropriate for this area, but I don’t really see what the objection is.

    I am far more concerned about the police-woman outfit. It is far too tight, and the fabric looks thin. In addition, it has a mini-skirt attached, which does NOT come down to her knees! But let’s take it a step further, and point out that while playing lion comes in many shapes in forms, a policewoman is an actual and acceptable occupation, and one that could not be appropriately completed in such a short skirt. Who does the policewoman need to impress with her “sexiness”? The criminals? Fellow officers? She could neither fulfill her job nor earn respect dressed in that way! This seems like a silly thing to point out – I mean, it’s just a costume. But all in all, a girl’s career-costumes are already extremely limited. My son can choose from a wide range of “career” costumes – astronaut, fireman, doctor, race-car driver, mad scientist, etc. While I could (and would, if she asked) buy these costumes for my daughter, all of the models are boys, and they are placed in the boys’ section of the costumes. The girls could have a sexy nurse’s costume (another job where a short skirt is impractical), or apparently, they can be sexy police officers, but otherwise, I guess there is nothing to aspire to. To me, this is far more disappointing. If my daughter wants to be an astronaut when she grows up, she shouldn’t have to shop in the boys’ section (and a skirt in zero-gravity is a no-go!)

    • I guess what I’m trying to say is that these costumes send the message that a GIRL should look sexy first, and if she can accomplish her job (which is, by the way, to back up the male policeman or the male doctor, in all of the catalogs that I have!), well, that’s fine. But first and foremost, she needs to be sexy. Yikes.

      • What disturbs me about the lion costume is how little it looks like a lion. You are right – it’s cute. That’s it. Would it be OK if a boy’s costume was made to make the boy look cute, rather than actually looked like a costume? It’s just silly.

    • I would agree with you, mostly, about the two costumes shown above. The lion is less horrifying than silly, as the idea that you just couldn’t be a -girl- lion without a dress is a little absurd. You can’t do catlike things in a dress, but it’s nothing I wouldn’t let my daughter wear for a semi-formal occasion. The child’s costume doesn’t really even come close to the sex factor of the adult version either. Maybe a different example would have been better.

      The cop outfit, though, with it’s high hem, heels, PVC, and overly simplified markings IS disturbingly reminiscent of porn fantasy. It’s much more comparable to the adult costume in terms of skin and signals, too.

  15. Totally horrifying. When I was a kid, my sister and I wanted nothing more than to scare the crap out of grownups. I wanted to be an evil skeleton or something, and my sister wanted to be a blood-covered ghost or other stuff in that vein. That was the fun! This whole trend is just icky.

    Plus, that child in the lion costume looks NOTHING like a lion. Puh-leease. This is a lion costume:

  16. My 2 year old wants to be a lion, so I knew to look only at boy costumes, which look like lions, not a cheerleader with kitten ears. My 5 year old wants to be a princess, so I prefaced our search with the notion that I will tell her what she can choose from. They are out there, but there is a lot of junk to sort through.

  17. I agree 100%! and when I took my girls shopping this year for Halloween costumes, I was pleased when they both (age 7 & 10)commented how inappropriate most of the girl costumes were, and wanted to go look for costumes in the “boy” section. My 10 yr old picked a Darth Vader costume that she just loves loves loves, and my 7 yr old wanted to be a black cat. SHE (and I) didn’t like the options available to buy for that, so I’m in the process of sewing her a black fuzzy jumpsuit with a hood… so both my girls will be fully covered. I refuse to wear any of those skanky women’s costumes so I found a witch costume that looks like a real witch (not to low cut in the front and not too short)… though I probably could have gotten away with just reusing my nun costume from last year for the witch dress 🙂
    Thank you for your blog and pointing out what so many seem to not notice because it has become “mainstream”, which just makes me sad.

  18. This is not an issue about the store. As much as I hate to say it, it’s true. If people didn’t buy them, they wouldn’t sell them. I am a single mom with 2 daughters, now 15 and 19. Would I have let them buy a slutty costume? No. Just like I monitor what they wear to school. The issue lies with the parent and what they let their child do. Yes, their friends may be buying the “porny” costume and they may want to do that as well. It is about the parent being the parent and setting down the rules and sticking to them. Plenty of my daughters’ friends were wearing inappropriate clothes to school. Did my daughters want them? No. Why, because I had raised them to realize, even at a young age what is appropriate and what is not. The solution does not lie in penalizing the store or complaining to them. It lies in each parent’s decision, whether we think it appropriate or not.

  19. Smidgeroo says:

    I’m 25 and I’m a Disney Princess every year. I go all-out and make the foofy dresses. I can’t STAND those ‘costumes’. Halloween to me is a sacred tradition of being allowed to be your hero or idol for a day, and the closest I’ll ever get to dressing like those atrocities is accidentally forgetting my skin-colored top under my Ariel seashells! 😀

  20. Great post! I really wish there was some more outrage too. Terrifying!

  21. Great post thank you! I have three daughters and two sisters. We’ve never gone the sexy route for Halloween costumes. What’s the deal with the lion in a dress? My daughters have been animal many times over the years. The costume always starts out with sweats in the animal appropriate color. It’s cold outside!

    The sexification of children is sick.


  22. Stephanie says:

    As the mom of 5 boys, and well, a woman myself, these things outrage me. How am I supposed to raise caring, sensitive, respectful boys into manhood, when this is how our culture presents its girls? And well, the boys’ costumes may cover more of their bodies, but they are in no way more creative – they follow a parallel, equally predictable formula; it’s just about other sexist notions – machismo, violence, physical strength.

  23. Hannah D. says:

    My mom made our costumes growing up – and she WASN’T a stay at home mom. I still remember the year my brother was a fireman – utilizing the red hoses from our old Kirby vaccum cleaner. By the time we were age appropriately old enough to wear “sexy” costumes, we weren’t allowed to go trick or treating anymore.

    My 3 year old son is scared of people in costume and masks (no theme parks in our near future) so we haven’t done, and aren’t doing halloween. He has an early bedtime too. Besides, why would I take him trick or treating? to get candy? I don’t want him eating that crap anyway – and if he has it and I deny it, that is just one more argument/challenge. And I certainly don’t need to be supplementing my hips with that crap either.

    Much more fun to put my son to bed, stay at home and scare the crap out of the kids who come by. speaking of which – I need to go place my dry ice order now….

  24. I really have enjoyed reading a few of your entries. I don’t have kids yet but agree with you 100%! The whole over-sexuality of these costumes is appalling and sickening. It teaches girls that in order to be pretty you need to look slutty, this sends the wrong message.

  25. SpringALing says:

    Horrifyingly, it goes far beyond Halloween costumes when it comes to the sexual objectification of our nation’s children. It is little wonder that our nation has such a problem with child pornography and pedophilia when we allow–nay, encourage, our children to dress in such provocative manners.
    On a more political note: it does not at all surprise me that more conservative–and dare I say, more moral–nations call us whore-mongers and fight with their lives to prevent their own cultures from being polluted with the disgusting, cesspool that has become our nation’s entertainment industry in which at every turn we have manufactured childhood sexuality shoved in our faces.

  26. You know, it strange… maybe it’s just because I’m in Canada, maybe it’s because I only briefly glanced through Wal-Mart before heading for Value Village, but I just don’t see this stuff. I’ll agree heartily with the value of homemade costumes over cheap Chinese knockoffs, but the pre-built costumes I saw while shopping with my 8-year-old daughter were all of a distinctly longish nature. I can’t blame the weather, as none of the costumes are any kind of heavy, but coverage was good, and there was a boy’s end to the rack, a girl’s end, and a big mash in the middle for things like lab coats ninjas.

    As it happens, it turns out that the kids’ Mom will be handling Hallowe’en this year, so when they came for their wekend visit to my place I took them to the Zombie Walk. We did the zombie version of the Scooby Doo gang, with me as Fred, my teenage son as Shaggy, and my little girl as Daphne. Daphne, of course was the “pretty” one, so the costume included: knee-length corduroy dress, tights, a scarf, and a hairband, all scrounged for at thrift stores and appropriately battle damaged. Spray-on red hair was a fun, giggly bonus. Does this sound shockingly sexualized?

    This is the kind of thing she thinks of as “pretty”, despite being very much a princessy-Hanna Montana-loving girl. The biggest controversy was over who got the bullet holes, and who got the road rash/razor cut combo. Only my son had revealed enough arm skin for the compound fracture to be of any use (“Stop picking at it!” said my daughter indignantly, along with many other people).

    Among the college crowd I’m hanging with, yes, the “I’m a slutty X!” is the prevalent female costume. I have the sneaking suspicion that for that age group, it may be less a costume and more a statement of what they expect to do at the after-party. But as for my daughter and her friends, I haven’t seen them try to imitate the trend, nor seen the means for them to do so, unless you count the “emo” abomniation that’s available in the mall year-round. My daughter wants to be a Zombie Ninja next year; I had to point out that with that much coverage, nobody would be able to see the zombie parts. She’s still considering; I’m left to wonder just which culture it is that created that little-girl cop I see in your article.

  27. well heterosexuals flaunt their sexuality as much only differently than do gays. In the heterosexual mindset, the female is there for the male entertainment and pleasure. While so many heteros are concerned about gays having rights, heteros are screw up the minds of young people all the time. I see it in my clinical office as a psychotherapist. Flaunting their superiority while pointing at others and claiming inferiority is a projection of their own inadequacy and pathology. Bottom line is; the manufacturer would not be making these costumes if the customer wasnt buying them. it’s all about the “ching ching” in the register. Nothing to do with morality! that IS the morality of American society. MONEY.

  28. Sexy Halloween costumes brings to mind the whole “Toddlers and Tiaras” beauty contests. With precious little girls having to put on false eyelashes, flippers, spray-tans, cutlets, etc. Their moms swearing their daughters love it.

    It’s sad that the clothing industry markets sexiness to young girls and that it’s carried over to costumes too. It is so much in young girl’s faces everyday. The other day my daughter told me her 13-old step sister wants to be a Playboy bunny this year – thank goodness her mom had the sense to say no.

  29. i agree with what you are saying and it’s scary to watch it happening all around. however, the children’s pictures you have provided are not what you described (especially the lion picture. the cop picture, i would choose a larger size for that girl to wear. but neither of the pictures provided are porno material)…. if you have those same dresses in a pretty pastel color or florals, they would be cute spring/summer dresses.

    also… it’s the way a girl carries herself/poses in a picture. you can be sexy (or try to pose sexy) in a trash bag that goes all the way to your feet. this girl is fairly well covered and overall, i think the outfit is cute. but her stance is “look at how sexy i am” she was trained to pose this way as a model. this is scary.

  30. I could not agree with this post more! I don’t have kids yet, but when I do they WILL NOT go around looking like little brothel workers. My mom used to make my costumes by hand. Clown, princess (to the ground length), etc. Never once was I a sexed up version of anything. I agree that it is terrifying more parents aren’t stepping up and protesting this kind of stuff. The world wonders why it is full of pedophiles? With costumes like this and Toddlers & Tiaras these creeps have things served to them on a silver platter…..

  31. Growing up, my mom never made my costumes – she’s not the domestic type! But I was always in something covered up and I don’t recall having to look too hard for it. Now I’m a 21 year old college student. I will be attending at least one Halloween party, and I know I will be surrounded by girls in slutty costumes. But I have no desire to objectify myself that way. Trying to find a Halloween costume that looks cute at a college party, yet doesn’t scream “I’M SLEEPING WITH THE FIRST GUY WHO TALKS TO ME TONIGHT!” is proving to be very difficult. This hypersexualization of young girls is sickening.

  32. Why stop at the sexy costumes for girls? All corporate Halloween costumes aimed at children seek to steal away something very important from children: imagination. By purchasing their packaged junk children are losing out on the opportunity to be what they really want to be, to plan their own costume based on the images crafted in their head and made real on a sewing machine or the piecing together of thrifted items or goods found around the home. This hijacking of a child’s imagination impacts both boys and girls whether their costume be ‘sexy’ or not.

    To answer to combating girly culture is not purchasing a different commercial identify for children buy giving them something real, and by that I mean themselves, who they really are without somebody telling them to pick ‘package a’ or ‘package b’.

  33. It makes my eyes cross. Not just the sexy girl costumes, but the sexy “lady” costumes too. I mean, today I found this one:

    SEXY NEMO?! Really…REALLY?! I have never dressed as sexy anything for Halloween (save for one Madonna/Like a Virgin look that I rocked about 8 years ago, I was 26). What happened to Halloween? My favorite holiday has morphed into a porn fest! Maybe we should all ban together and not give candy to the trampy costumes that show up on the 31st?!

  34. Aunt Candy says:

    Good job Wonder Woman. It makes me want to cry reading this. It is really abuse against children and childhood in general. Unfortunately society seems to thrive on forcing our kids to grow up way too quickly. And even more sadly it starts when they are babies are still in a crib.

  35. What’s with the corset lacings on them? If the little lion costume had sleeves instead of the bustier-style top, and no corset lacings, it might be cute… my little girls do prefer dresses, even in costumes… but a lion with a corset? Come on. It’s styled after role-playing lingerie!
    My 2 and a half year old loves Alice in Wonderland and wants to be Alice for halloween – so I went to a costume website and searched “Alice Toddler”. This is what I found – in sizes 24 mos to 4T : For those who don’t want to click the link, it’s a sexy blue flouncy mini dress with black corset lacings, loosely based on the Alice blue dress and pinafore. The original dress DID NOT have a corset, why add it? On a toddler costume no less! Ugh. Needless to say, she won’t be wearing that. I’ll make her costume from a blue CHILD’s party dress, thanks.

    • I don’t see a huge deal in the costume! I mean the girl has TIGHTS on! TIGHTS! None of these costumes bother me to be honest. Wear them while they’re young as long as they’re tasteful! Remember the child will want to wear a warm outfit anyways! No offense, but you guys sound a bit too prude. Unless you are 6 feet tall, those costumes look NOTHING like the photos!

      You guys remember, the models are more than likely tall for their ages, and should TRY BEFORE YOU BUY! As far as “sexy costumes” go, everyone should chill out and try the costumes out themselves before making judgement, unless you are 5’6″ or taller. I’m 5’0″ and those costumes fit perfectly on me and I get TONS of compliments from older conservative women!

  36. Tim Robinson says:

    Whenever I begin to think that feminism has made some inroads among the general populace, I think of these costumes. (Well, that and 20 other things.)

  37. Cannot agree more! My 3-year-old daughter wants to be a cat for Halloween. I could not BELIEVE how hard it was to find a costume that was not a sex kitten. For my 3-year-old! She’s not even potty-trained, for goodness sake! So, hers will be a homemade outfit, with ears and a tail added.

    Oddly enough, it’s pretty much the same costume that my son wore a few years earlier, when he decided to be a cat–which is NOT a costume you can find for boys! Struck out twice on this.


  38. Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble, but you guys are way prude! I’m not trying to offend anyone, but a foofy lion skirt that hits right at the knee is NOT inappropriate, in fact it’s a cute and feminine lion! Same with the cop. If your elementary school-aged daughters were tall girls who look older than they are, I can understand your concern, but aren’t your kids going to layer up anyways trick-or-treating? I’ve worn costumes like this for a long time, but with good taste. You guys are making a bigger deal and need to CHILL OUT! It’s halloween!

    • Jeana –
      If me being a prude is what it takes to stand up to the rampant sexualization of childhood, then I’ll get it tattooed on my face. I’m fully committed.

      Except…I’m not a prude. Not by a long shot. I’m a sex positive feminist with a youth that was illustrious and well spent. All of those experiences allow me to see the forest through the trees and fight for my daugther’s right to a girlhood.

      See the big picture, please.

  39. For all you Mom’s without much time to make a costume of your own, or without a creative bone in your body (or both, like me) but don’t want to give into the sexy kids stuff… check out ETSY. They have a whole section of kids halloween costumes and they are all hand made from a real person… not Legs Lane or whatever.

  40. I agree 100% & I’m farthest from prude! But as a mother myself I think something needs to be done about this. Please people don’t feed the fiery (the market)! Be creative! In our family we make our unique, one of a kind, unforgettable, most talked about costumes. It can cost pennies or even close to $50 to make but the look on my child’s face when it’s all done is PRICELESS! This year’s projects, the fortune teller from Big brother 13, her & her lightup booth for my 14 yr old daughter and the creepy scarecrow w/the crazy toxic syringe hand (which is tricky but fun to make it actually glow w/glow sticks) from batman for my 8 yr old son who has always loved anything scary…crazy kid! And thankfully my 16 is helping w/candy & not dressing up this year…don’t know if I could handle another difficult costume! Have a happy and safe Halloween!

  41. Hi! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I genuinely enjoy reading your blog posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same topics? Appreciate it!

  42. I’m 25, an adult who pays my own way, and could wear whatever I want, but guess what? Halloween is in October, and I don’t know about the weather where these girls live, but where I live, it’s cold, so I want to be warm on Halloween! I am not very crafty about making my own costumes, but I also can’t afford to spend a lot of money. This year, I found an orange-ish/pink-ish wig that looks kinda cartoon-y and I fell in love with it! It was on clearance for $2 at Jo-Ann’s Fabrics. I had no idea what costume I could make, but I decided to get it. Then came Google. I searched for costumes with pink hair and costumes with orange hair and found Daphne from Scooby Doo. Well, lucky for me, I have a purple dress, purple cardigan and a green scarf. I bought some purple tights for $5 at Target and ta-da! I have a costume that is warm and creative and fun! I am a grad student, and I live in a college town, so I asked the guy I am dating if he liked my costume or if he was upset it wasn’t “sexy” and guess what? He said he thought it was really creative and fun and even offered to go as Fred. Blue jeans, white sweater and orange scarf. Done!

    Now I just need to find a Scooby Doo stuffed animal 🙂

    • P.S. For those of you who are asking, “What does this comment have to do with young girls and sexy costumes?” Let me clear some things up…I don’t have any children of my own yet, but I do have a niece and nephew, and I figure if I’m 25 and don’t feel the need to be sexy on Halloween, then I really don’t think anyone younger than me needs to be sexy either.

  43. FairyKukla says:

    For someone who gets angry about generalizations, it surprises me that you paint all of the Halloween stores with the same brush. I have worked for two of the big chains, and while Leg Avenue was ONE company that one of the chains ordered from, there were plenty of age-appropriate and adorable costumes available for sale. There still are! Plus there are plenty of accessories appropriate for partially-homemade costumes.

    So vote with your dollar, Moms! Don’t buy the french-maid-inspired age-inappropriate costume. Buy a traditional costume. There are plenty of adorable animal costumes, media characters, spooky witches/vampires/devil costumes, and the like. Also, why aren’t you taking your little girl into the “boy’s” section, if colors are for everyone? As a sales associate, I never failed to offer some of the fun costumes in the “boy’s” section to eager girl trick-or-treat-ers. Were we out of a traditional witch’s dress? Come check out this awesome robe, it’s over here in the boy’s section. You don’t have to add a grim reaper mask, but it’s a long sleeved robe with a HOOD! How cool is that!?

    Or is it that you don’t even want to let your little girl SEE the Leg Avenue section?

    I agree. Don’t buy age-inappropriate stuff and it will eventually go away. Unfortunately what has happened is that Leg Avenue (which did NOT carry children’s attire ten years ago) has branched into the kids’ market because people were buying their adult costumes for their kids. (Shudder.)

  44. It makes me sick to see these little kids dressed up this way. I make my own costumes just because of this. I think if more people quit buying these then they may start making some more appropriate ones for kids.

  45. kind of scary that parents are willing to let their children go out like that. I’m all for homemade halloween costumes but they need to be tasteful.

  46. Doing my part to make this go viral– shared on both my personal and Seasons of Joy facebook pages.

  47. Girl’s clothes in general, let alone Halloween costumes, make me double take all the time! My daughter (who is 9) attended a school disco yesterday where some of her classmates were wearing hotpants and boob tubes…at 9 years old…what the?! Kid’s want to have style and I think that’s cool, it’s all part of being an individual, but you look at some parent’s choices and wonder – are you buying your child clothes you wish YOU could wear, or is that really how you think a child should dress?

    We’ve always made our own costumes for Halloween – partly because I LOVE it and also because I refuse to spend huge amounts on outfits that will be worn for a couple of hours tops on one night. Also, Halloween is meant to be creepy, save the princess and fairy costumes for birthday parties and dress up games – unless you’re going to be a zombie princess of course!

    Whilst I disagree with blatant sexualisation of children with regards to clothing, it’s also important to remember that, if you’re looking at it from the point of view that it’s encouraging attention from paedophiles, a paedophile is simply attracted to children – not specifically children in sexy clothes – just children themselves. In that way, seeing a very young child in a sexy/adult cut outfit makes me worry more about the mental maturity of the parent than the worry about the effect of how the child is being portrayed.

    • Lisa –
      You are absolutely right, pedophiles are attracted to children because of their age, not simply limited to their manner of dress. But when the parents of the child willingly sexualize the child for public display, the message to these pedophiles is that their sexual impulses are not as taboo as our culture would proclaim them to be. The family is voluntarily turning the child into a sex object, if even only temporarily. My point was more about the sliding of that taboo, and less about the danger of a pedophile seeing a child dressed in a sexualized way for one night.

      • Yes, I do agree with you there. It’s peers in our children’s own social groups and the individual children themselves also being given this false message. The parents initially implanting the idea that looking sexy is solely what makes you attractive to other people – rather than you being an awesome individual is what makes you so – is pretty detrimental to a child’s self esteem.

      • Look at the beauty pageants anymore..That is why I took my girs out of them. They want too much nd too little clothing for a 6 yr old too wear.. sickning

  48. I was kinda shocked to see spagetti strapped costumes for babies. I mean, it *is* October. My 7 month old will be wearing long sleeves, and thick tights, thankyouverymuch!

  49. Great post! I miss the old way if dressing up for Halloween – so much more fun & creative than today’s cheap tacky costumes. This post reminds me of this study, which found that children as young as six want to be sexy:

    I think your thoughts here echo a lot of what other research is showing. Keep up the good work. Thanks for sharing!

  50. I remember in 5th grade a classmate had a halloween party/haunted house. We didn’t have money to buy costumes that year, so my mother came up with something she called a “cowgirl hooker”. I had a fluffy denim mini-skirt, cowgirl boots, a red and blue plaid cowgirl style shirt, and lots of make-up. My mother applied the make-up….I had bright blue eyeshadow all the way up to my eyebrows, the brightest red lipstick I’d ever seen, and rosy red cheeks. I didn’t really know exactly what a hooker was until that night. Most of my classmates shook their heads, others just laughed at me right out. After awhile I just told them I didn’t know what I was supposed to be, my mom did it. I was so embarrassed and humiliated. All I could think of was how my mother had laughed and had such fun dressing me up, and then how I was laughed at, how they whispered and pointed. I remember lying to my mom when I told her I’d had fun, then going to my bedroom and crying as I took the costume off. I scrubbed my face clean and went to bed.
    Today I am appalled at what I see hanging on the racks…..and I have full control over what my children wear for Halloween, and it will be something fun, appropriate, and respectable.

    • Amanda –
      What an awful experience for you, I am so sorry you had to go through that. I am glad you will do better for your children. I hope they have fun trick-or-treating!

  51. My friend and I were just talking about a Justin Bieber party for a 5-year-old. Should 5-year-olds be into boys, even stars?

    It’s too much, too soon. Personally, I don’t think there’s any appropriate age for the stripper costumes, but when they’re older, they can decide that for themselves.

    • While I understand – and possibly share – what I am inferring as your concern, I then need to raise the question about whether it would be okay, in your opinion, for a 5yr old boy to want a Justin Bieber themed party.

      The real question being, is it sexuality or cultural indoctrination?

    • How does a 5 year old even know who Justin Bieber is? I suppose if they have older, infatuated siblings… In my mind, this is a strange party theme for a 5 year old, no matter which gender.

  52. Thank you for your wonderful post. Unless I hear from you to the contrary your post will be excepted and referenced in my blog on Monday with links to your site to finish reading. I have already reposted it to Facebook.

  53. It is not just the Halloween costumes. I am very careful not to buy the slutty outfits for my grandaughters. Sometime that is all that is available. Fortunately I can knit something that is cute and not pornographic.

  54. Thank you so much for this post!

  55. My daughter, 10, wants to be non-specific military personnel for halloween (mostly because she loves camo). Usually I whip up my kids costumes myself, but in an effort to have amore authentic looking outfit (tons of cargo pockets and zippers etc.) I went looking around to see what was out there.

    The contrast between boys army costumes and girls army costumes is dizzying. The girls kits look like a camo version of the above examples. The boys? Pants and buttondowns.

    How are people not seeing this?!

  56. While I agree, allow me to present some critical thinking counterpoints. First of all, I do not like the suggestion of parents making demands at a school about what children are or are not allowed to wear for Halloween. I agree that there can be a certain level of decency, but I am afraid that if the parents become the “police” on this subject, it will eventually hinder the creativity and voice of the children. Second, the suggestion that a Halloween costume is giving the thumbs up to molesters. For me, that is just going a bit too far. Sexual predators are about power, and they will abuse a child if you wrap him/her in bubble wrap under a snowsuit. Other than that, I think swaps are a great suggestion, and I too came from the mindset of the “homemade costume” until I was too old to trick or treat. And I agree that they all follow a predictable pattern, that isn’t very creative.

    • Vickers –
      You are absolutely right, in many cases molestation is about grooming, power play, and coercion. I was not suggesting these costumes put our kids at greater risk of being snatched off the street and taken, I was addressing the idea that when our culture blurs the line for people with this predilection we remove that taboo around kids and sex. That is what I meant by a litmus test for our society, when this becomes the market standard we as consumers are essentially saying, “Yes, our little girls are and can be seen as sexy and sex objects.”
      What we should be saying is a resounding “HELL NO.”

  57. Thanks for this wonderfully eloquent post. I am sharing it on FB.

  58. I’ve shared my ourage on this topic before, but I usually focus on a way easier to see comparisson: Look at the boy costumes vs. the girl costumes. While looking for couples costumes one halloween, I stumbled on a site where every single costume had a “boy” and a “girl” version, 80% of which were “[thing]” and “sexy [thing}” respectively. “pirate”, “sexy pirate”; “policeman”, “sexy cop”; “ghostbuster”, “sexy ghostbuster” (seriously). It got worse from there.

    It’s indefensible that this: is the Boy costume for Spongebob Squarepants, and THIS: is the girl version (teen, adult [where it’s finally called “sexy spongebob costume, but is essentially the same costume] and plus size also available: )

    Admittedly, on this particular website, a good number of the women’s half of “couples” costums ( aren’t all that revealing. There are lots of options for that though…

  59. Yes!! It truly is awful what costumes are out there and is so sad and horrific that it is moving to a younger and younger age. I agree that the line is way past blurred as to what should be acceptable. Sadly people will fight it tooth and nail in the voice of freedom and doing what they want and what makes them feel good.
    I graduated in psychology and have done research on this very issue it is a quick and slippery slope from this feeling of doing whatever makes you feel good, to pornography, and beyond. Now before someone jumps down my throat, it obviously isn’t a guarantee and not everyone who views pornography will someday become a child molester; but I think if more people had even a little more understanding of the psyche of those who do hurt children and women they would be a whole lot more careful with with they deem acceptable.

  60. Why stop at being outraged by Halloween costumes? Have you seen the outfits that competitive dance teams are required to wear? Not just the girls, either. This season’s America’s Got Talent featured a boys squad (boys from 9-12, I believe). The boys performed a routine that could have been used by Chippendales dancers (complete with flashing of abs and “sexy face”). And when Howard Stern voiced his disapproval, the audience (including the dance moms) booed.

  61. When I was a kid in the 80’s every girl wanted to be a harem girl. And when did shoulders get ‘sexual?’
    There is nothing wrong with that lion costume.
    I would rather see a thousand lions than one girl that thought it was ‘romantic’ to dress up as a captive sex object.
    (After harem girls, it was ‘babies.’ Where the person dressed up in footie pajamas and slippers, full stage makeup, and a bottle to suck on all day.)

  62. Must be regional/cultural. Where I grew up in the eighties, my friends and neighbor kids wanted to be astronauts (we have a NASA here), wanted to be ballerinas (fully clothed against the cool night air mind you), care bears, ghosts (not the sexy kind), wanted to be sailors (we live by a gulf), wanted to be teenage mutant ninja turtles, mario, luigi, yoshi, dress to the ankle Disney Princesses (because most princesses didn’t wear mini skirts). First, it is COLD in October. True trick or treating in most of the US occurs in cool evening hours. My mom loved us enough to dress us appropriately. She wouldn’t have approved of us wearing short arm and leg baring dresses in cool weather to play outside any other day….Halloween was no exception. Second, these new halloween costumes are so inauthentic. To reference the examples above. I know no female adult cop who authentically wears knee high boots and a skirt to work in. If my daughter wanted to try on the identity of policeman, then I would prefer her to be interested in the role of protector who wears gear representative to the real occupation vs. gear representative of the sexual parody of that costume. And then the bottom….it doesn’t even look like a lion. Again, it is a sexual parody of the real thing. I am not okay with that for my child. And I know plenty of parents just like me.

  63. I love seeing your childhood Wonder Woman costume, as my six-year-old wants to be Wonder Woman this year and I had to search high and low for an appropriate costume. Not only one that wasn’t too sexy or cheaply made but also one that didn’t feature WW wearing a tutu! I don’t find the tutu to be sexual but it’s just not accurate to the costume (not that I want her in her underpants like the real WW–a post for another day) and I’ve noticed that among the retailers who don’t go the “sexy” route, every last girls’ costume features a tutu. Not all girls want to be princesses or ballerinas! We finally found something we both liked on Etsy, but it was a little spendy (fortunately, she will be able to keep the costume for dress up and possibly pass down to her younger sister). Too bad for my daughter that I am not more crafty but this is my absolute least favorite holiday for the reasons you mentioned above, as well as my lack of sewing skills (and dislike of piles of candy, which only I end up eating, etc).

  64. It’s 2015, things haven’t changed from the original post in 2011 except my girls are older now and notice the sexy girl costumes. We still put ours together with things from around the house and a little sewing and hot gluing.

    I think for the manufacturers to change they need to feel it in the wallet. People around the world need to stop buying the inappropriate costumes for girls. Plain and simple. It will take a movement.

  65. I have a daughter and I 100% disagree with the notion Halloween being sexualized towards children. You know what brings this up people that look to make it an issue. First off these dresses are almost to their knee. When I was that age I wore my old recital costume which guess what was probably ten times more revealing than these. If you do not make it sexual it is not. My guess is your toys shouldn’t be pink or blue because it’s sexist. My guess is it’s inappropriate in your world for a young girl to wear a bikini. Guess what I have photos from infant and throughout my youth with me and others along the beach in bikinis and two pieces. Guess what no one put a baleen on something to make it seem there’s always something wrong with it. My daughter if she chose to wear either of these outfits is fine she’s probably have tights or a shirt underneath because it’s cold where we live. If I was in Florida it would be fine because it’s hot! She’d probably not have the boots on and be showing more leg. Stop being so overly grotesque to assume this is sexualize and focus on something with more depth. This whole sexism thing for children is out of control and to be honest out right misinformed and plain unintelligible. Wast your time on things that are important like equal rights, all lives matter, religious freedom, but stop with putting labels on children because sexulizing something towards a child is labeling something that shouldn’t even put next to the word child.

    • Lyla –
      That’s a lot of wrong guesses, but I’m glad you are here and reading. I think if you were to stick around for a few more posts you might see how the sexualization and stereotyping in childhood plays directly into bigger problems, the ones that “matter” like the equal rights, all lives matter, religious freedom issues you list.

      If you are interested in learning about what sexualization in childhood is and why it matters, please see:

      Take good care.


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