“What big eyes you’ve got Grandma.”
All the better to ogle you with my dear.”
“So this red cape, thigh boots and cleavage thing is working for you is it Grandma?”
Grandma drools and howls at the moon.
If you’ve popped into a costume shop looking for a little something for Halloween it’s almost guaranteed it will be a little something indeed.
In the last decade shop-bought Halloween costumes have become markedly less about the vampire and all about the vamp. This trend to sexualise our dressing up and put the whore into horror has been dubbed “Slutoween”; a meme that is currently exercising feminist debate especially for our puritan dissident descendants in America.
Fancy dress has always had a frisson of ‘what you fancy’, a chance to fantasise for a moment and unbutton from our daily uniforms. But in the last decade costume shop stock, especially for women, has been increasingly more revealing.
So, if you are a female habitué of Halloween attire, you can forget the seasonal “beach-ready body” pressure, the sand and sunshine will bleach out the bumps anyway, you’ll need all your will power to get fit for October 31st to strike a pose in your Sponge Boob No Pants, Princess Lay-Her or Fairy Queen Titty-ania outfit. With costume choices increasingly about how bare you dare it’s not long until we see gyms advertising programmes that promise to have you ‘fit to frighten’ for Halloween.
Complaints about the sexing up of Halloween have a particularly American twang and a whiff of the Scarlet Letter. In Britain where, it seems, many of us would rather express through dress than talk it out American style, dressing up is an integral part of life. All our youth movements had dress codes, an Oxbridge degree does not come on a certificate but confers the right to wear a particular gown and where else could transvestism in the shape of the pantomime dame become an institution? There was a time in the 80s when you not only assumed that everyparty was fancy dress, the influence of the New Romantics made sure that every photo we own from that period is excruciating.
In America fancy dress is more for special occasions and their special occasion par excellence is Halloween. But ‘moms’ are getting distressed because their teen and tween daughters are going straight from Pumpkin Pies to Treacle Tarts.
In the 2004 high school melodrama Mean Girls, Lindsay Lohan says, “Halloween is the one night of the year when you can dress like a slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” Unfortunately, in the real world, Lohan needed every day to be Halloween because, until her publicity machine eventually buried her, just about every day was filled with people calling her on her slut status.
‘Slut-shaming’ is still an all-girl sport in America. Feminist websites are fighting Slutoween’s sexy dressing up pressure, ridiculing the costume choices, advising girls on outfits they can make themselves and enlisting the girl band EmotiStyle who have produced a song called Things You Can Be On Halloween Besides Naked.
In this country where, on any Saturday night out in any provincial city the dress code is pure skin and stilettos, have we simply become inured to the likes of the Sinderella or Captain Hooker costumes? Or is prudish, party pooping, puritan founded America actually expressing its horror of sex itself? Halloween is all about what we fear. Sex is one of the most confusing isn’t it/is it taboo areas for teens and tweens and they’re the ones buying the Sexy Firefighter/Nurse/Cat/Dinner Lady costumes.
In an article in The New York Times called Good Girls Go Bad For a Day, one of America’s biggest Halloween costume retailers, which sells outfits with names like Little Bo Peep Show and Miss Foul Play, reported that, “Probably over 90 to 95 percent of our female costumes have a flirty edge to them,” adding that sexy costumes are so popular the company had to break its “sexy” category into three subdivisions.
So has America, the world’s largest consumer market, led the global costume industry to capitalise on one of its greatest fears, sex itself? And has that then turned the tap off on all the under selling frumpy costume alternatives?
Of course if Britain led the world consumer market then we’d all be dressing up as embarrassment on Halloween.
The marketing genius who came up with “Sex sells” forgot to add “but fear sells faster.” If Slutoween is fear and sex bundled together its appeal is unstoppable. I’m just waiting for the marketing geniuses in ISIS to catch on to this one. Watch out for Sexy Jihad.
Have a frightful Halloween (if you’re not having a filthy one).