Halloween Costumes: the End of the Innocence?

Posted by at 1:39PM

"Sad USC Girl" would've been so easy!

Stanford, it seems, is losing its rally spirit.  Today I sat forlornly in the corner of CS107 lecture, the lone froggy in a sea of normally-dressed people, looking hopefully to the doors, awaiting a fellow spirited student.  No such individual arrived.  The outside world was no better, and by the time I went to lunch I felt foolish for even bothering.  While, as a friend of mine stated, “you always dress like this!” the point remains: on the one day a year when bizarre dress is encouraged, Stanford, lead university of the unorthodox, has failed to deliver.

Is rally dead?  I wondered.  Maybe I’ve got blinders on because, as a tour guide, 1.5 of my dorm room drawers are devoted to sequined, spandex, fluffy, feathered articles of clothing with no immediately obvious application.  Maybe I’m unique in my possession of bizarre regalia.  But still!  I thought.  No one tried?

Then it dawned on me: people probably aren’t wearing their costumes because they’re too inappropriate.

Sad as it is, ever since the advent of the Mean Girls generated formula of (lingerie + animal ears = costume), the selection of commercially available costumes for females has devolved into an endless stream of “Slutty _______” (fill in the blank with arbitrary occupation, animal, fictitious character, kitchen appliance, etc.).  When the tamest costume I found at the Halloween superstore last year was “Sexy Dorothy,” complete with 4 inch skirt and hooker heels, I knew something was rotten in the state of Denmark.

Sure, whatever, I understand that costume propriety is a function of rapidly deteriorating pop culture, and I get that maybe passing Halloween off as “Slut for a Day” might be construed as somehow liberating of societal norms.  But girls, we go to Stanford.  We know better.

Significantly more appropriate than most of what I saw on Friday.

It’s saddening to me because Stanford women are the lucky few.  While women in many nations and situations are confined to specific roles and ways of life based on their gender, we have the opportunity to become leaders of our generation, blasting through glass ceilings and shattering misconceptions about construing women as sex objects.  That is, until Halloween, when an endless stream of scantily-clad women parades down Palm Drive to Mausoleum like so many pieces of meat.

To me, it boils down to a matter of self respect.  When you look at your outfit, if you’re showing more cleavage than creativity, you’re doing a disservice to your intelligence and worth as an individual.  Stanford women are brilliant, motivated, and stereotype-busting role models to younger girls.  Don’t allow yourself to fall back into that stereotype for an evening just because it’s easy.

I’ll conclude with a piece of advice I gleaned from a good friend which is particularly applicable for Halloween.  “Always be yourself.  Unless you can be Batman.  Then definitely be Batman.”

Happy Halloween and goooooo Cardinal!!



7 Responses to “Halloween Costumes: the End of the Innocence?”

  1. Another Stanford Lady’s Perspective says:

    I’ve often looked at Halloween with excitement and trepidation: on the one hand, dressing up is incredibly fun, and I love deciding on my costume, even if I never have enough time to get my costume just like I want it. On the other side, I know if I want a costume I actually want to wear, I’ll have to make one myself, because the only costumes I’m going to find in the stores are “sexy princess” or “sexy cowgirl” or “sexy pancake”. (Well, maybe not the last one. But I bet it’s coming in 2013!)

    I’m sympathetic to your frustration, but I can’t help to feel that to say that dressing up in revealing clothing is a matter of self respect creates a false dichotomy between looking sexy and being intelligent. Why does showing skin automatically mean you don’t have self respect? To say that showing “more cleavage than creativity” does a disservice to one’s intelligence assumes that a woman can either be sexy or smart – take your pick, there’s only two options, girls! To say that Stanford girls “know better” than to dress up as a “Slut for a Day” (and without even going into the very problematic nature of the word slut) is incredibly condescending, because it also completely ignores women’s desires: what if they *want* to wear that revealing costume? What if it makes them feel good to dress up that way? What if they want to be both sexy and smart?

    You say that women may think they are breaking social norms by wearing revealing costumes, but in actuality they just going along with them. I understand: you want women to be respected for their intelligence and worth, and not be just judged by how they look. But it seems to me like you’re judging women based on how they dress and look in this article: assuming that if girls wear scantily-clad costumes, they don’t do so from their own desires but just to attract attention, and that girls wearing those costumes obviously just don’t *understand* and aren’t smart enough to see they are *really* giving into social pressure. If we want to bust stereotypes, how about we bust the stereotype that girls are either pretty or smart, and tackle the underlying problem of how society judges women on their looks and what they wear instead of blaming women for attitudes they can’t control?

  2. Kristi says:

    Fellow Stanford Lady:

    I appreciate your concerns, but I think you misunderstood my article. I don’t believe that there is a dichotomy between being either sexy or smart – they are in no way mutually exclusive, and I didn’t say they were. Nor do I wish to suggest that Stanford women shouldn’t wear clothing that makes them feel beautiful, hot, or even sexy. I do, however, believe that there is a very clear distinction between clothing that is revealing or hot, and that which is, quite frankly, slutty. Many of the costumes I witnessed on Halloween went far beyond what could be considered tasteful by any stretch of the imagination.

  3. Another Stanford Lady’s Perspective says:


    It seems I did misunderstand part of the underlying attitude of your article – and glad to hear that you do think women can be both smart and sexy! Especially since we’ve got so many smart and sexy women at Stanford :)

    What I do take issue with, however, is the idea underlying your article that there is a clear distinction between clothing that is sexy and clothing that is slutty, and that women who wear the wrong kind of revealing costumes are sluts. I find the word slut to be a very problematic, because it perpetuates a sexual double standard between men and women. Men can have sex (or make out, or kiss, or even just flirt!) with lots of women and they’re congratulated from their behavior, whereas if women do the same, they are too often called sluts. There’s hardly a clear definition of what slut means, either: a girl who’s slept with 10 people? 5 people? sleeps with someone on the first date? freely makes out with people if they ask? shows a lot of skin and flirts with lots of people? What does run through all the different ideas of a what is slutty, however, is women who are expressing their sexuality in a way that makes other people uncomfortable. What if a costume that you might consider “slutty” and un-tasteful makes that girl feel sexy and hot? Which opinions wins out – is she slutty, because you consider her costume to be inappropriate, or is she sexy, because she considers herself to be?

  4. Kristi says:

    Fellow Stanford Lady:

    I think you’ve extrapolated further than what I expressly communicated in my article again. While I do believe there is a distinction between clothing that is tastefully attractive and that which is unnecessarily inappropriate, as I’ve mentioned above, I never suggested that the Stanford women who choose to wear the latter form of clothing *are* in fact “sluts.” Indeed, as you’ll see, I note that Stanford’s “brilliant, motivated” women who serve as “role models” are doing themselves a “disservice” by dressing in ways (I consider) unbecoming to their intelligence. It is certainly possible to wear clothing of a certain connotation without actually fulfilling the role which that clothing conveys, and I never state otherwise. Slutty clothing does not one a slut make.

    I acknowledge that the use of “slutty” was perhaps poor word choice. I, too, am frustrated by the sexual double standard in our society and aim never to promote or perpetuate this damaging dichotomy. A better choice of words might have been “clearly inappropriate” or “gratuitously revealing.” I do believe such a distinction exists. Consider the following:

    Regarding your consistent theme of “if it makes her feel sexy and hot, it’s okay”…. Where, then, can one draw a line? Are all streakers at the World Cup now excused because it makes them feel “sexy and hot”? Should Stanford professors wear lingerie to class because it makes them “feel good”? According to your theory, is it possible to have a line? Does the individual woman truly have no societal responsibility to demonstrate respect for those “other people” you mention whom she is making feeling uncomfortable just because an outfit makes her “feel good”? If you had a middle school son whose teacher wore miniskirts and thigh-high boots to class, wouldn’t you take issue? Doesn’t each individual – both male and female! – have a social obligation of respect towards those around them?

    I believe there is a line. I think it’s very easy to tell the difference between someone who is wearing a hot outfit and someone whose own costume makes her and those around her feel uncomfortable. I saw countless girls pulling up their uncomfortably tight and small corsets throughout the evening and pulling down on the hems of their skirts because their costumes don’t actually make them feel good: they make them feel cold and uncomfortable. I’d provide concrete examples from the myriad Halloween Facebook photos, but I’m quite confident that most of these women don’t want these costumes in the public domain.

    A final point for consideration as a broader theme: sexy individuals do not need to rely upon inappropriate clothing to convey their “sexiness.” People who are truly “sexy” are those who consistently display that they are self confident individuals who are comfortable in their own skin. They do not need to compensate for anything by wearing clothing that makes themselves or those around them uncomfortable. Being smart and self-confident is about as sexy as it gets: Stanford students (male and female alike) don’t need to compensate for anything!

  5. Another Stanford Lady’s Perspective says:


    I suppose I extrapolated a bit with the link between your opinion on slutty clothes and then calling girls sluts, but that’s also because I’ve seen that happen so much in real life – it’s just a quick jump for some people, although not all, from “she’s wearing slutty clothes” to “she’s a slut”.

    In regards to the “if it makes her feel hot and sexy, it’s good” idea, I was specifically talking about Halloween costumes and times when people are trying to feel *sexy*, and not applying that idea to all areas of life. Sure, the examples you give are inappropriate, but they wouldn’t actually happen (besides streakers) in real life: first grade teachers don’t go to class trying to feel sexy, because they don’t have the time to devote energy into looking sexy, they have a job to do. (First graders are a handful!) Also, what those teacher might be wearing (mini-skits and boots) aren’t inappropriate in and of themselves, but the *situation* where they are wearing it is inappropriate.

    I definitley do agree that girls should wear what they are comfortable with, and I don’t like how girls are pushed to reveal more of their bodies than they would like, but I also think girls can be self-confident in their own skin and still like, well, showing a lot of skin and wearing revealing Halloween costumes. Perhaps it’s just the word choice for me here: I can agree with your idea of “inappropriate” in terms of Halloween costumes being physically uncomfortable, and women shouldn’t feel like they have to wear something revealing if they don’t want to and have to be picking out wedgies for half the night, but I don’t like to think of “inappropriate” in terms of how much skin the girl is showing. In that case, “inappropriate” becomes just another word for “slutty,” and what really rubs me the wrong way about describing women’s clothing like that is that it leads to some nasty situations for women down the line. It can seem harmless, and on an individual level it can be, but words and the ideas they spread have power. For example, violence against women is justified by saying “well, she was wearing slutty clothes!”, and women can be blamed instead of the people who actually committed the crime.

    I guess in the end I would agree that women who are encouraged to wear revealing outfits even if they might not want to should never feel forced into wearing something they don’t like, but I also feel that means not judging the girls who like those outfits and feel awesome in them, either.

  6. I think this YouTube sums it up says:


  7. Can we stop the Halloween costume slut shaming? says:

    I’m a little bothered by the slut shaming occurring in this article. I agree that the lack of more “modest” costumes available to women is a problem; there should certainly be more options available. The imposition of such costumes on women is indicative of a sexist society, but so is the animosity towards women who choose to wear them. If women decide to dress in ways you deem sexual, so what? For some women it is actually empowering. I know it is a tricky line to draw, but by saying women who show cleavage are lowering their self worth, you are contributing to a culture that shames women for expressing sexuality. What about men who go to Halloween parties shirtless or wearing spandex that shows their junk? Are they degrading themselves?


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