Sexy Tween Girl Costumes Are Still the Scariest Part of Halloween

tween girl Halloween costumes

My daughter is thinking of dressing as Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens this Halloween. It's a perfect choice: Rey is a smart, brave role model of a character who can hold her own against a Sith Lord any day. The costume is easy to buy online or at retailers, and even if it weren't, it's fairly easy to pull together out of leggings and fabric strips. But mostly, I'm glad that I don't have to worry that my daughter will get arrested on Halloween night for indecent exposure.





When I was a girl back in the Cenozoic Era, kids wore the same basic store-bought costumes for All Hallows' Eve: flimsy long robes that we always tripped over, topped off with plastic masks that pinched around the eyes and made our faces sweat. It was even acceptable to toss a sheet over your head à la Charlie Brown. Today, it's all about fancy costumes with even fancier price tags. Sadly, it's also about making young girls look like junior sexpots.

Oh, sure, the classics are still there: Cinderella, Elsa, Barbie, Minnie. But for every Wonder Woman outfit in the party shops, there are two Wonder-What-They-Were-Thinking: not-so-subtly alluring witches and cheerleaders, Red Riding Hoods in black lace, Monster High girls in torn stockings and micro-minis.

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Your civic-minded daughter can dress as a "Cop Cutie" with fingerless gloves and a flouncy skirt -- you know, just like the real police officers wear. Also featured in our image above is the "Cheerless Cheerleader" fishnet extravaganza, along with just one example of the Monster High Doll costumes for children (yes, children), the "Kids Clawden Wold Costume."

For the truly patriotic, there's the "Major Flirt" pseudo-military getup featuring a thigh-high skirt, studded belt, and fishnet glove. Way to support our troops!

Even modest costumes become squirm-inducingly provocative when you see how the girl models are posing: hands on hips, red pouty lips, twirling a lock of hair. It's hard to tell whether you're reading a party-shop flyer or a Victoria's Secret catalogue.

What's truly ironic is that these getups wouldn't get past the front door in your average elementary schools. Tween girls are being suspended from school right and left for violating strict dress codes that forbid above-the-knee skirts and shorts, leggings worn as pants, shirts that reveal shoulders, and on and on. In one recent case, a third-grade girl's outfit was ruled "inappropriate" not because it showed any excessive skin, but because it was just tight enough to show the outline of her "plus-size" stomach.

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So for most of the year, we make sure our daughters are dressed modestly. But for one magical October night, those rules go out the window -- we're encouraged to sexualize girls young enough to prefer Shopkins to boys. Mixed message much?

We're also seeing a lot of disturbingly creepy kiddie costumes. Young girls can now opt to be "zombie brides," dead-eyed cheerleaders, Goth prom queens, or dolls that haunt your nightmares. One of this season's hottest costume characters is Harley Quinn, from the Batman comic series and the movie Suicide Squad. She's the best of both worlds -- sexy and a psychopath. Woo-hoo!

But here's the real problem: The sexy-costume dilemma has been around for a number of years, and shows no sign of going away. It's not that the retailers aren't listening to the complaints -- it's that we’re not complaining loudly enough or in big enough numbers. Stores listen to the voice of the people -- and their dollars -- all the time. Walmart and other major superstores stopped selling Confederate flags after protests over the flags' symbolism. Last year, malls that had created a sterile, minimalist "Santa area" for their holiday photo service brought back the traditional spangled Christmas trees after horrified consumers accused them of catering to non-Christians.

I'd be willing to bet that if this year's costume selection included a little cheerleader "taking a knee," a "Confederate Cutie," or a tween elf carrying an "I Hate Christmas" sign, you'd see a social media explosion and picketers outside Party City faster than you can say "Trick or treat." So why aren't we more proactive about stopping a trend that has serious implications for our daughters' self-image and our society's view of women? Have we just come to accept this as part of growing up female -- or are we reserving our outrage for football players and stores that stay open on Thanksgiving?

We don't have to go to extremes and make our daughters go full-on Amish on Halloween -- there's nothing wrong with fantasy role-playing. But we can still have a say in how preteens are perceived by the public, even on this once-a-year sugar-filled extravaganza.

We can refuse to put our girls in dresses that are virtually identical to the come-hither outfits worn by adult women. Put it this way: If Donald Trump would approve of it, maybe you shouldn't.

We can boycott girls' costumes that sexualize the careers they may one day choose for themselves. Women have a hard enough time being taken seriously as police officers, firefighters, and members of the military. Why make it harder by sending the message that girls are more suited to looking cutesy than to doing tough work?

We can choose not to let our girls represent a macabre character that they wouldn't be allowed to watch in a Netflix movie. They'll see enough blood and horror when they’re older and can turn on the news for themselves.

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And yes, we can raise our voices in protest to let corporate America know that we won't allow our daughters to be vamped up before their time. If the word gets out widely enough, and those provocative witch and zombie costumes hang unsold on the racks, we might just see a change in kids' costume options on future Halloweens.

This holiday is scary enough as it is; allowing it to compromise girls' innocence and self-image is a nightmare we don't need.


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