Who Says Halloween Costumes Have to Be Intellectual?

By: Emily Yakashiro

I have noticed a curious trend when it comes to critiques of “sexy” Halloween costumes: that such costumes are criticized (in addition to everything else) for being ‘lazy’ because they are not especially creative or inspired–and that this is somehow a bad thing.

Now, yeah, to my mind, “Sexy Shark” costumes don’t really shout creative.

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And I take issue with these costumes below because they are SUPER RACIST and problematic, and that whoever wears them has put no thought into how their costume might hurt someone.

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Costume images above found here.

Still, this tendency to lampoon sexy halloween costumes (provided they are not racist like the ones above) as especially not creative and therefore intellectually offensive and/or lazy is something I take issue with.

First of all, why do costumes have to be intellectual, creative, or thoughtful? I live in Vancouver/Coast Salish Territories, and I have observed that, day to day, the citizens here aren’t all that stylish–and that’s okay. As such, it does not surprise me at all that people here might not have the most outrageously creative and innovative Halloween costumes. Nor do I expect them to: why would people who prefer comfy layers and athletic wear go all out for Halloween? It seems to be a dissonant expectation to me.

Second, I find this troubling because of the gender expectations that are colliding with women’s intellectual capabilities. Women shouldn’t wear sexy Halloween costumes because they’re creatively uninspired and not loaded with intellectual meaning? Give me a break. Women are too busy working for 70% of what men are paid, fighting to break the glass ceiling, and balancing the many responsibilities in their lives–and now they have to come up with an creative, artsy Halloween costume with a decent intellectual explanation behind it, or else be considered lazy? I call bullsh*t, ’cause that kind of sentiment is teeming with some sort of intellectual elitism to me. I’m (not) sorry, but I can totally see the appeal of just quickly grabbing a sexy Devil costume off the shelves of whatever grocery store I’m in and heading out to a party.

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Third, it’s entirely possible to wear a store-bought sexy Halloween costume and for said costume to have intellectual meaning to the wearer. Store bought costumes are great for those of us who aren’t talented with a sewing machine (for example, I love the idea behind Take Back Halloween, but a lot of their suggested costumes are way beyond my sewing level and/or price point), and besides that, meaning can be ascribed to sexy Halloween outfits. For example, in school I studied world religion, with a focus on women in religion (shocker, right?). Being an introvert, perhaps I would don one of those sexy witch costumes as a conversation starter, and I could go into a whole conversation about the European witch hunt and misogyny–which, incidentally, was the topic of my final undergrad paper. Or, I could talk about how historically inaccurate my costume is, and go into how I’ve been reading lots of stuff by Starhawk lately and how inspiring it has been. It wouldn’t have to be this intellectual or anything at all, but the possibilities are there.

Lastly, as I’ve mentioned before, I have a history herstory of wearing supremely lazy Halloween costumes and calling it a night. From Halloween 2007-Halloween 2011 I had the privilege of being a university student with a full course load and working and volunteering. Those were my personal priorities, and as much as I love fashion and clothes, I couldn’t afford to spend money or time on putting together a great costume. I threw together a costume last-minute based on clothes I already had or just pinned on a sheet–really. And I know that wearing a sheet for a costume is just as “lazy” or uncreative as wearing a sexy, store-bought Halloween costume, but somehow I don’t ever get flak for wearing the former…

It has nothing to do with the fact that I know nothing about creativity or fashion, nor that I am not a smart or intellectual person. I would also like to resist those who might say, “but you’re different, you’re a feminist, you at least wore an artfully draped sheet not a slutty pirate costume,” because that hasn’t always been true. While I’ve been a feminist forever, I’ve worn some really offensive costumes in the past few years that I deeply regret. I’m a smart, feminist woman, but I’ve made some mistakes. I’ve done stupid things, but I’m not a stupid person–I’m learning and growing just like everyone else, and I would assume the same for the women in the Sexy ______ costumes I’m bound to see on Thursday night.

Even MORE Last-Minute Halloween Costumes

So ya’ll are really panicking about what to wear Thursday night, eh? Our hits have been through the roof this past week, entirely due to our Halloween content. So glad to see you’re all into our feminist Halloween fun! Here are some more costume ideas for the truly lazy or those of you with no time whatsoever.

Dress as a Painting!

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Above: Why not dress up as Romaine Brooks?

Okay, this idea totally comes from our hard core crush, WORN Journal. They had a party on the 11th back East with the theme of “dressed as a painting“. Aka, you wear a costume based on a figure from your favourite watercolour or surrealist master piece (or any art movement really)! SO brilliant, right? Walking around with a picture frame all evening is your choice, it would be a nice prop. Definitely check out our”Inspired by Art Herstory series–all the paintings shown are by women!

Adventure Time Princesses

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Above: Image by VvibrantcolorsS on deviantART here.

Why be a Disney princess when you can be an Adventure Time Princess? Princess Bubblegum is an obvious choice–remember, you don’t need a sweeping gown and long pink hair, she actually wears a lot of stuff. Or, be Wild Berry Princess or Lumpy Space Princess by wearing the appropriate shirt and tights and then blowing up a bunch of balloons and pinning them to yourself? You could even be Slime Princess–just get some buy some sheer green and yellow fabric and drape it over your head like a sheet ghost costume (secured with a twist of gold foil or pipe cleaners for a crown, of course). If princesses aren’t your style, be a queen–Marceline the Vampire Queen (below) of course! Like PB, she wears a lot of stuff which makes it easier to emulate her look–just be sure to go out and get a blow-up guitar of course!

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Doctor/Nurse/Health Care Professional

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If you have a family member who works for a clinic of sorts, chances are they have scrubs. You could borrow them, or even get your own set–thrift stores tend to have lots of scrubs! The good thing is, no one expects them to fit nicely, and they often have drawstrings to make the fit more adjustable which is convenient. You could take things a step further and say you’re Dr. Mindy Lahiri (above), Scully when she’s got her doctor hat on, a cast member from Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, or any other medical drama show. Yay for women in medical professions!

Fashion Plate/Fashion Disaster/Fashion Taboo

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Have fun with our cultures ridiculous fashion rules and break them–all of them, in one costume. Wear socks with sandals. Wear white after labour day, or be a wedding guest clad in white (like Mindy Kaling as Kelly in The Office when she wears white to Phyllis’ wedding, pictured above). Where that heinous Christmas sweater. Wear matching denim for a bad take on a Canadian Tuxedo. Or go the other way–use your wardrobe and be a fashion victim by wearing as many trends as possible (runners/designer sneakers, leather peplum top, pants over a skirt, tons of clashing jewelry, all topped with a baseball cap).

 

 

Well Dressed, Well Read: Sylvia Plath & the Raincoat

Today I bought a raincoat–not, that was yesterday–yesterday I bought a raincoat with a frivolous pink lining. that does good to my eyes because I never ever had anything pink-coloured, and it was much too expensive–I bought it with a month’s news office pay, and soon I will not have any money to do anything more with because I am buying clothes because I love them and they are exactly right, if I pay enough. And I feel dry and a bit sick whenever I say, “I’ll take it,” and the smiling woman goes away with my money because she doesn’t know I really don’t have any money at all. For three villanelles I have a blue-and-white pin-striped cotton cord suit dress, a black silk date dress and a grey raincoat with a frivolous pink lining.

-Sylvia Plath in The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Gloss over This: Sarah Anne Johnson

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At her studio, which consists of a couple of big, unfinished rooms in an old Winnipeg warehouse, it’s clear that Johnson is currently obsessed with intimacy and sexuality. “I think everybody has issues with intimacy,” she says. “I have a hard time talking about it, and maybe that’s why I’m making work about it. That’s how I deal with my shit.”

-Winnipeg artist Sarah Anne Johnson in “True to Life” by Alison Gillmor in Flare Nov. 2013

NEW & NOTEWORTHY: ELLE CANADA AND FLARE’S NOVEMBER ISSUES

Flare and Elle Canada caught our eye with their November issues–here’s why.

Every month here at The Closet Feminist we do a post for our “Covers & Content” series which takes a very basic look at the diversity shown in the pages of the three major Canadian fashion magazines: FlareElle Canada, and Fashion. This series is important and will contribute to the overall count in our diversity report that will come out in December, but it does tend to miss some other good (or bad) stuff that we see in these magazines.

The November issues of Flare and Elle Canada, despite not being all that diverse based on our criteria for “Covers & Content” still had some really good articles that deserve a nod. See for yourself below.

Elle Canada

“Is The Undercut a Feminist Act?” by E.H. (p. 219)

This is just a short piece near the end of this issue, but it’s certainly something that bears discussion–and we like to see feminism mentioned in fashion magazines, however brief.

BOUNS: Thoughts on women, short hair, and feminism by Silvia C. here on The CF.

“Bent But Not Broken” by Stacey May Fowles (p.154-160)

This well-researched article on gender roles, gender bending, and fashion struck a perfect balance between thoughtful analysis and fashion reporting. We’re super-excited to see such an important issue given so much page space in a major, mainstream fashion magazine.

After head-banging to [Nirvana] with a group of friends in a suburban basement, I adopted the garb of grunge like a devoted convert. In my first act of gender-role defiance, I discarded all my mall-bought preteen femininity and […] donned the shapeless uniform of a certain type of man-oversized plaid flannel shirts and ridiculously huge overalls and work pants […] Maybe I was afraid of developing sexuality or the expectations of what it means to be a woman, which were galloping toward me at breakneck speed.

-Stacey May Fowles in “Bent But Not Broken”

“The Incredible Shrinking Man” by James Grainger (p.132-136)

One of the things we loathe is the “Well, what about the guys?” argument that comes up whenever gender politics are addressed or hinted at. You think that an article about body image and eating disorders would arouse such sentiments. Thankfully, Grainger’s article does not fall into that trap, which is as refreshing as it is nuanced. Grainger addresses pop culture trends, class, gender, and economic arguments to create an insightful piece that shows how these things all effect and hold us all to unhealthy and destructive standards and expectations.

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Above: A gender-bending look from the Dries Van Noten Fall 2013 collection that Stacy May Fowles discusses in her piece. Image found here.

Flare

Flare’s new format and makeover have actually made it a global competitor in terms of fashion mags, not just another Canadian fashion magazine. There’s plenty of Canadian content to be sure (yay!!), but the magazine is chock-full of all sorts of interesting, stylish, and hip tidbits now. If they keep up publishing articles like the ones below, we’ll have to build a shrine…

“Real Girls Don’t Get Makeovers” by Carlene Higgins

Such an excellent anti-editorial focusing on six different women of all different backgrounds and styles–we love the diversity and fashion of this group.

“Surprise–You Can’t Have It All” by Rachel Giese

This article is about feminism, and three new feminist tomes on the market. Don’t worry though, Giese isn’t under any illusions as the article description reads, “Feminism never promised to make things easier, just more equal. But as Rachel Geise reads, life may be lessequal–and it all feels just as hard.” Def worth the read.

“Bed, Bath and the Beyond” by Jennifer Goldberg

This article by Goldberg is on the mikvah, a Jewish purification ritual. Goldberg is responding to a trend she has noticed wherein, “a new generation of Jewish women is reclaiming the mikvah, a purification ritual with misogynistic undercurrents.” She manages to touch upon religious history and custom, feminisms then and now, and what that means for Jewish women in a few short pages of a highly compelling read.

 

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