Having been a student of the history of costume while I was studying fashion design at F.I.T., I’m always interested why we dress the way we do. Curious about how the idea of dressing up for Halloween came about, I did a little reading and found out that Halloween is a Celtic tradition that dates back thousands of years ago. According to History-of-Halloween.net, Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival called Samhain, pronounced sow-in. The Celts associated the season with death and believed that on the night before Samhain the boundary between the living and the dead was distorted.
This culture believed they could avoid being recognized by the ghosts that came out on the night of Samhain by wearing masks. They would also place bowls of food outside their homes to satisfy the ghosts and prevent them from entering the home, which could be where trick-or-treating originated. Other sources point to beggars in Ireland who made their rounds to homes of the rich to ask for money and food. They would threaten them with “evil spirits” if they did not give.
Over time, the religious and historical roots of the holiday have been long forgotten and now, present day, we have pre-teens dressing up as sexy witches, sexy kittens, sexy nurses and more. Basically, put sexy in front of any costume idea and it’s a costume for a girl to wear these days.
In the case of Halloween, we’ve not come a long way, baby.
Why has Halloween become an opportunity for girls and women to dress like tramps? This article on CNN was particularly eye opening about the topic. In the article, Michele Yulo, founder of the PrincessFreeZone.com had this to say:
“Marketers basically decide what is ‘girl’ and what is ‘boy,’ which ultimately leads to two very distinct ways to profit as well as a blind acceptance from the consumer who, often, doesn’t realize it’s happening,” Yulo says. “Girls are inundated from a very young age with inappropriate messaging by way of products like ‘skinny’ jeans for toddlers, or T-shirts that say, ‘I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother does it for me,’ and sexy Halloween costumes. Kids begin to codify other kids by placing them in strict categories that they’ve been taught — not born with. Inevitably, kids begin to believe that girls need to be sexy, and boys believe it, too.”
Further in the article Peggy Orenstein author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girly-Girl Culture” says ”What girls hear is who they are is how they look, and how they have to look is “hot,” which is creating problems for girls at an ever-younger”
“Girls are learning at the youngest ages that their value comes from how they look, and the definition of attractive is very narrowly defined as being sexy or sassy (for the younger girls),” Orenstein says. “Sexuality is imposed upon them inappropriately, and they are encouraged to define their bodies — not by how their bodies feel to themselves, but by how they look to others. This creates vulnerabilities for girls to the pitfalls we worry about — distorted body image, eating disorders, depression and unhealthy sexual behavior.”
I also loved contributor to CNN, LZ Granderson’s take on dressing your kids like tramps which was a follow-up to his article Parents, Don’t Dress Your Girls Like Tramps. Click the image to watch the video.
So what do you think? Are young girls dressing too sexy on Halloween or are we just overreacting?