Halloween Costumes & The (Plus-Size?) Girl

I have a love/hate relationship with Halloween, and Halloween costumes. OK, it’s mostly a hate-based relationship. I haven’t dressed up since I was ten and the few occasions where I have “worn a costume,” it’s been my making a half-assed attempt to be something where I could wear clothes I already owned (see: Bridget Jones in 2004; random Ravenclaw in 2008).

My main problem, as an adult? The ridiculous preponderance of  “sexy” costumes for women. I know we all love the Mean Girls joke about girls letting out their inner slut on Halloween, but as a woman who doesn’t *want* to be a Sexy Taxi Cab Drive or a Sexy Pirate, I find Halloween and Halloween costume shopping to be a tedious, disheartening process.

I actually wrote about this topic on my old blog, Mavenity, in a post titled “This Halloween, I Want To Be A Slutty Tax Accountant,” wherein I discussed the disparity between men’s and women’s costume options, the passivity of female costumes, the ridiculous things that have “sexy” variations at Halloween and the Male Gaze. A snippet from that post:

For men’s costumes, we see the opposite. You’re not going to see “sexy” in the title of any of their offerings, or clever plays on words (aforementioned Heidi Ho, Tribal Tease, anyone?). Men get to be superheroes, doctors, historical leaders and goofy characters (clowns, Sesame Street characters) without having to be sexy versions of them, an ostensible difference from the plethora of Disney-and-childhood icon inspired ladies costumes that feature shorter skirts and lower necklines than the (age appropriate) originals. So on a day when women get to dress up to be anything they want to be, they get to be a) sexy and b) subservient while men get to be a) strong and b) dominant?


… It begs the question: are most Halloween costumes for adult women ueber slutty because women WANT to exercise their sexpot fantasies, or because MEN want women to exercise their sexpot fantasies, and they’re the ones designing and marketing the costumes? Do women do this to themselves, or is it all a part of the Male Gaze?

Beyond the “but I don’t WANT to be sexy…” issue, where I run into a big, fat brick wall is Halloween costume sizing. I generally don’t consider myself plus-size — not in the fashion & store sense. I’ve found the fit of clothing at stores like Lane Bryant and Torrid don’t work with my proportions (big on the bottom, but with a tapered waist and really small shoulders), so I’m stuck with the largest standard size offered in whatever mainstream stores deign to go up to size 14/16.

Halloween costumes for women, however, work extra hard to make women feel like shit about themselves. Not only are we supposed to be SEXY!, if you are above a size 10, you’re plus-size. And plus-size Halloween costumes are… shall we say lacking? On the one hand, the plus size costumes are less sexy — they add more fabric in places, such as around the bust line — but at the same time a) there is FAR LESS selection (the specific costumes that are chosen for the “fat girls” is… interesting, to say the least) b) as bad as SEXY! Halloween costumes are, it begs the question: why are the plus-size costumes less sexy?! Fat girls can’t be sexy? (this is where I start to feel conflicted) and c) my GOD the sizing is TERRIBLE.

Plus-size costumes are really shit with proportions — despite being for sizes 12+, different costumes make bold assumptions about “plus-size” bodies. Some are WAY too big in the bust, others are shockingly small in the hip, and the inches differ between brand and even different costumes. It’s bizarre that, as a size 14, the 2X in one brand was appropriately sized for my inches (large enough in the bust but small enough in the waist… AND big enough in the hips), but in another the 2X was way too large… and the 1X too small. I can’t imagine being a fit size 12 who is too “big” for standard XL but too small for plus-sizes. Who do they expect to fit into this stuff?

This year, I’ve been invited to a real deal, proper Halloween party, by friends who actually care about dressing up. So Heidi, Rochelle and I went Halloween costume shopping, which resulted in me getting into a pouty, adolescent huff after perusing the ladies (and plus-size) costume options at the store. Not only was I struck, as always, by the marked difference between the men’s section and the women’s (HEROIC vs. SEXYYYYY) but I just wasn’t moved by anything in the plus-size section: Greek Goddess, Policewoman, Pirate, Disney characters, various historical garb.  The one thing I would consider, they didn’t have plus-size in store: a German beer girl (but not a sexy kind… would that I could afford a REAL dirndl!).

So I took to the Internet to see what my options were… and found it BIZARRE that I am a 2X in plus-size Halloween costumes! I took the plunge and ordered a plus-size German beer girl (sorry, I refuse to think of myself as a wench, kthanx!), which arrived and, yes, fits (it’s actually kind of lose). However, the fabric is cheap, and it is ridiculously short. Am I becoming one of Those Women by wearing a Sexy costume, or just making the best of it that I can? (incidentally, my plan is to buy a shaper to wear underneath so that a) the slightly too-big costume doesn’t bunch in weird places and b) so I have some “costume underwear” on b/c if I even tilt slightly, you can see my bum. But c) I might just buy leggings)

What do you think? Are your Halloween costume go-tos store bought, sexy variations? Do you defy the sexy lady costume trend? What’s your favorite costume to date? What are you going as this year?Any plus-size costume recs? Or any ire you want to express over selection?

Run wild! Let’s talk about being a woman and dealing with Halloween!


18 thoughts on “Halloween Costumes & The (Plus-Size?) Girl”

  1. I almost always make my own costume because I’m so disheartened by A – the selection of pre-made costumes, B – the cost of said costumes, and C – the poor quality relative to the cost of the costume.

    1. Ditto, but then I’m super lazy about the making your own part. I settled for an expensive/cheap (how can something be expensive but cheap at the same time ARGH) this year. Not super happy, but I’ll live. Sigh.

  2. I’m not into dress up. Nor am I into slutty costumes. Last time I dressed up, it was a work situation and I had to, and I dressed as Brandon Teena, with my ex, who dressed as Billy Tipton. This was about 12 years ago, and we thought we could raise awareness about transgendered rights and we handed out little info sheets to people who didn’t understand who we were. So, that was my idea of a good costume! I probably wouldn’t be so serious if I had to dress up again. If forced, my husband and I laugh that we would dress up as Lucille 2 ( Liza Minelli) and Buster from Arrested Development.

    My only other thought is this….. If I were really into dress up, I would probably invest in having a handmade costume, to ensure better quality materials and to make sure it was properly fitted and not skanky. I know this is more expensive than buying something from Aaahs, but if you’re really into costumes, I would think the extra cash would be worth it. In this economy, I feel like it wouldn’t be hard to find someone who sews who would be interested in earning some extra money by making a costume.

    I guess I have one more related thought. As you have stated, size labeling in clothing can be demoralizing and the sizes inconsistent. I don’t feel large, yet some brands insist that I am large. :-/ This is a relatively modern problem…. clearly, before clothes were mass produced, they were made for your own measurements, by a seamstress or by yourself. So, clothes just fit YOU and you didn’t have the stress of having to compare yourself to the sizes of other women, or feel bad about being labeled as plus size in some brand. I know it’s never gonna happen, but I think it would be very liberating for women to be free of the size constraints of mass produced clothing.

    And for a Curvy Costume, maybe some kind of Mad Men inspired Christina Hendricks type outfit? Classy, sexy for us voluptuous types, but not slutty by any means.

    1. OMG, please do Buster & Lucille 2. Too bad Slimmons isn’t having a costume party this year b/c that would be PERFECT.

      Agreed, re: handmade costume. I’m just not that invested in dressing up, so I don’t spend the money. I know some cosplayers with really incredible clothes. It’s the reason I bought a cheap little German thing instead of a real dirndl. It would just not be cost effective to buy a piece I would only wear maybe once a year. (that said, I have a dirndl at my mom’s house from when I lived in Germany, but I don’t fit into it anymore… it’s TINY)

      Re: sizing. It’s demoralizing AND annoying. The sizing is so lazy, and these costumes have no real structure b/c they’re meant to be able to “fit” a range of body types within the “size.”

      I would do Mad Men but it’s so DONE now. So many women do it. Sigh. Maybe when it calms down a bit, it will be a nice throwback costume :)

  3. I’m always kind of on the fence about Halloween costumes and the sexy xxx. On one hand, I think it’s boring and cliche and borderline exploitative. But on the other hand, I am 29 and how much longer am I going to be able to dress up as something silly and sexy and ridiculous.

    I like to think that I’m more creative than that, but at the same time my creativity does not extend to actual making of things and I’m always terrible at planning Halloween costumes. Last year I was going to go as Rex Ryan which involved little creativity, was funny instead of sexy, and served double duty as a pro-Jets getup. But then the Jets played terribly against Green Bay and I got pissed off and ended up at the costume shop again.

    I also know my husband likes the whole sexy Halloween thing (I believe he expressed this opinion in person to you last weekend in less than analytical terms) and as much as I don’t want to dress for the male gaze, he’s a dude whom I care about particularly and it would be kind of fun to dress cute. But ugh cliche. and ugh the disconnect between what men dress as and what women dress as (though I guess women’s clothing in general tends to be way more revealing and body-conscious than men’s).

    I think my solution this year is to dress as a sexy tax accountant or sexy Ahmadinejad or something totally ridiculous and possibly offensive that also kind of calls out the “sexy fill in the blank” aspect of pre-made Halloween costumes. Maybe it makes it a little less cliche and probably a little more “me” because oversexed and super offensive is kind of my thing.

    (and the sizing issue is another beast, compounded even more by the cheapness of Halloween costumes and trying to cram 3-4 normal sizes into one costume size. ugh. the disconnect between sizing and what costumes are offered kind of really creeps me out.)

    1. LOL @ your husband. You are right that he approves of my costume this year. It makes me LOL. And, yeah, I totally get that sometimes it’s fun to do the sexy thing for a partner or spouse. It can be fun. Just wish sexy weren’t the default for women on Halloween, and we had some more “generic” or heroic options, as men do.

      Please, please do an ironic sexy costume. I think that would be amazing. You even DIY and be a sexy financial adviser. OR a sexy gym rat! I’m all for irony in Halloween costumes. And take pictures XD

  4. Last year I was the Orbit Gum girl… I already had white pants and a white shirt. I bought a safari hat and borrowed a scarf from my mother. Then I carried around Orbit gum all night and said “Fabulous!” a lot. There are fun things you can do that don’t have to be ultra sexy. I saw something today for a “sexy Osama bin Laden” costume. Really?? I’m with you, the disparity between men’s and women’s costumes is annoying.

    1. That’s a great costume! I’m always either creative WAY too late, or just lazy. So I have ideas, but then don’t buy the pieces I need, or have a STROKE OF BRILLIANCE… the day after Halloween. I love the Orbit gum girl idea :)

  5. Your post reminds me of the scene from “Sex in the City” where Miranda says women only have two options for Halloween costumes – sexy cat or witch.

    I was the “sexy” beer girl two years ago. I was so self-conscious about how short the costume was. I added a petticoat and bloomers just in case.

    1. Yeah, I think I need to get a petticoat. I bought nude colored panty hose, but I think puffing out the skirt will help a bit. Since I’m tall, it’s almost like a really long shirt LOL.

  6. My brain hurts from too much work today to get into how I really feel about this. I will just say: I love dressing up. I love dressing up sexily. I wish I wasn’t fat. SIGH.

    Anyway, the real point of this comment is to say, a longer petticoat will be your best friend. Not the ridiculously small ones that come with the costumes, but one that will actually cover your bum and add a little bit of length to your costume. You are tall anyway so I think it would help.

    Happy Halloween!

  7. I hate all the slutty plus size halloween costumes. As you mentioned, ill fitting and cheap material – and usually expensive! My true plus sized ass won’t fit in most of the plus size costumes anyway, so I’ve given up. I’m too lazy to make something myself. Give me the candy bowl and I’m just as happy. :)

  8. I’m firmly in the “make my own” camp, usually of the variety that requires creative shopping rather than actual sewing. The primary place where I wear my costume is to work as a teacher. So while I’m not a fan of the term “slutty” to police people’s clothing choices, I think prepackaged costumes whose express intent is to promote sex appeal would be not okay to wear in that context.

    This year I’m thinking of donning some subtle glue on devil horns and not subtle (but temporary!) black hair dye. My favorite costume, however, was when I cut up the labels from a whole bunch of cereal boxes, affixed them to some old clothes, and added a plastic bloody meat cleaver — ready made cereal killer. 😀

  9. Ahh this is a subject i have a hard time with too. Last year we started having a halloween party at our house. I hate that I spend a fortune on my kids costume and they wear it once! So last year my baby was a sheep and I wanted to be little bo peep. So I looked all over bought what looked like an ok costume online only to get it and have it look like I was little bo peep the naughty stripper. Then this year we wanted to do a family theme for our party (which sadly I just had to cancel because the hubby and one of the kids is sick) so we went with super heroes. I spent hours trying to find the least sluty comic book character. So I orded batgirl and have no spent that last two weeks trying to find leggings to go under said costume because although wide enough for a plus size, not nearly long enough. Well it would be if you were plus sized with no butt..I mean none at all. I wish costumes were fun and inventive not like whores on parade. Even the junior costumes made of tween girls are horrible. My daughter is going as a nun when she gets older!

  10. You inspired me to write my own little blogette on this subject, although I did focus on the horrible and inappropraite ‘sexy’ costumes that are available this year. I hope you don’t mind me giving you a name check on there: http://emotionalcynic.tumblr.com/

    I’m not dressing up this year, I can’t find anything that seems right for me and that doesn’t just look really cheap. I hope you have a great Halloween though, whatever you end up doing!

  11. I dressed up as Alice in Wonderland this year and was shocked to discover that it only came in two versions: child and slutty.

    I convinced my grandmother to sew the costume for me and based it on the look from the Disney movie. I did find one costume that was longer (from the Tim Burton version) but the material was so cheap and they wanted $50 for it. No way Jose!

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