In Defense Of Sexy Halloween Costumes

I’m proud of my body, I’m proud of my costume-making and planning skills, and I’m proud of the cheeky humor behind them.

Me, me, and Lil’ Kim.

Courtesy of Kyra Richards; Scott Gries/Getty Images.

…titty out like what, I don’t give a f*$#k!…

Those words are some of Lil’ Kim’s most famous lyrics — and, you may remember, the theme of the skimpy breast-exposing (but nipple-concealing) ensemble she wore to the ’99 Video Music Awards. That profound line also inspired my Halloween costume in 2008, which, I contend, was the best costume ever. I naturally have a few physical characteristics in common with Kim — stature, ethnicity, confidence, vulgar jargon, etc. — but that’s not why the costume was as amazing as it was. I know on Halloween that I’m not only amusing myself but also everyone else who hits the town hoping to be amused by people like me. I know I have to be cheeky in more ways than one. So I reconstructed over a period of weeks, the best replica of the costume I possibly could with this in mind, and hit the town with an attitude to match.

Some people (haters) judge women dressed in sexy Halloween costumes. Today, in a Utah Statesmen editorial titled “OPINION: Sluttishness Is Not a Halloween Costume,” the author writes, “The whole point of slutty costumes is to solicit sex.” And the Washington Times printed a few days ago, “Self-respect begins internally, but extends to how we dress, even on occasions like Halloween.” These writers may think that women who get extra sexy on Halloween “have issues.” You know what? We do! If, to you, issues include raging self-confidence that completely refutes the notion that women ought to feel “fat” or generally bad about their bodies and themselves all the time. And the fearlessness it takes to shamelessly enjoy, as an adult, a little juvenile Halloween fun. It’s the one and only day of the year that we self-assured females can leave our homes in lingerie and a wig and not be presumed a prostitute (unless, of course, that’s what you’re going for).

My Halloween ensembles require thought, time, effort, money, and, frankly, nerve. Since 2007 — my senior year of college and the year I became secure with my body — my Halloween costumes have served as excuses to parade around in revealing outfits. But there is a difference between being sexy for the sake of it and being sexy with intention. I’m not just putting on underwear and running outside. You will NEVER catch me in the standard seasonal costume shop that sells “sexy” versions of just about everything in plastic bags. I will never be a “sexy nurse” or anything else cliché like that. I tend to dress up as someone current, because it’s funnier than being, say, a “sexy bunny,” which is just a big snore. At this point a “sexy bunny” or nurse or whatever is like the C-Span of costumes — really boring! I choose costumes that just so happen to allow me to expose my lovely figure — things that are authentically, organically skimpy, if you will. Like Lil’ Kim, or this year’s costume: Gabby Douglas. (What else?)

I’m confident that my Gabby Douglas portrayal will be the best of anyone else who may attempt this costume. Normally, this year being no exception, it takes weeks to complete my Halloween attire. I try to have my idea set by the end of September and initiate formation of the costume by October 1. The Lil’ Kim VMA costume required me to purchase a unitard which I had to take to my trusted tailor at the opposite end of town from my apartment. I also had to procure just the right kind of purple lacy fabric to pin to the unitard. Now, this pinning process was only possible while I was actually wearing the unitard, which turned bathroom trips into a three-women effort all night. I don’t think a woman who simply wants to show off her assets would endure this painstaking of a process — but for me it’s just as much about making myself, my friends, and everyone else laugh as looking hot.

Wearing sexy costumes also requires fortitude, which any Halloween enthusiast ought to respect. A fireman (the regular kind, not the sexy kind) is not going to freeze in a freak Halloween Nor’easter or be subject to sexual harassment all night. I’ve gone out on Halloween in freak blizzards, but I never hide my costume under a coat. What’s the point of putting all that work into a costume if you’re going to do that? But also, I hit house parties or bar crawl so as to minimize time outside. (And we all know booze has body-warming properties, so there’s that.) There is also the obvious threat of a sexual assault/harassment. In my VMAs look, I was a hit with lesbians. I thought for sure that my friends/bodyguards would have been batting off skeevy men all night, but it was quite the opposite. These women were lifting my exposed left breast the same way Diana Ross did to Lil’ Kim at the VMAs, clearly without hesitation or inhibition.

I strongly believe that any women with the fortitude to pull off such a costume also has the foresight to prepare for interactions of this kind. It’s in fine print at the bottom of the “I wanna be confident and sexy on Halloween” contract, so to speak. But it felt awesome, even though the boob touching was a little weird, to be celebrated for being sexy and proud of it by so many other ladies.

I find it perplexing that critics of women who wear sexy Halloween costumes claim to support women’s rights and female empowerment on the other 364 days of the year — yet they chastize the women who have the gall to “go there” on Halloween. Feministe wrote last year that the “sexy” Halloween phenomenon “throws the entire [feminist] movement back about 50 years, to a time when a Playboy Club-style Dirty Cop was more generally accepted than an actual female cop on the actual street.” Well, I’m proud of my body, I’m proud of my costume-making and -planning skills, and I’m proud of the cheeky humor behind them. But you know what they say:

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