Trick or Treat! Planning the Halloween Costume

It’s that time of year again! One of our favorite holidays, Halloween, is right around the corner. We have big plans for October to get you in the mood and prepared for the big day. We’re going to be re-posting the Trick or Treat series from last year (costumes, books, and movies) and adding to it with some new Halloween children’s crafts and treats. To kick things off (and since this is probably the #1 conversation topic in your household right now), let’s talk the Fair Play Shopping Strategy — for costumes.

Halloween can be a wonderful time for your child to exercise their imagination in generating creative costume ideas. It can also quickly devolve into the Annual Celebration of Gender Stereotypes. I see two primary issues with gender in Halloween costumes. The first is gender stereotypes in costume choices generally, and the second is sexualization of girls in their choices, regardless of how stereotyped the choice. This cartoon sums it up for me:

Halloween can seem very limiting for girls when every choice can be made “sexy.” Boys are in a pretty tight box as well when it makes national news that a boy goes to a school Halloween day dressed as Daphne from Scooby Doo. We talk a lot at Fair Play about how the available options shape a child’s interests and attitudes – so when those options are limited and gender-unfair, attitudes and interests become stereotyped. Walk in to your nearest Halloween store and you’ll see the trouble. Your boy may want to be a ballerina now, but it may be much harder for him to pick up that pink packaging when you’re there. Your girl may want to be a police officer, but that may be harder for her to pull off the rack when the surrounding costumes are also clearly marketed for boys.

My mother (Fair Play Supermom) encouraged the dreaming to happen at home. She also loved to sew, and made those costumes we dreamed up every year. They were incredible labors of love considering she worked a demanding (more-than-)full-time job but they were important to her, and to us. The greatest value from a gender-fair perspective was the work she made us kids do in dreaming up our costumes at home. We thought more freely that way, unconstrained by what options were on the shelves at the store.

So, I highly recommend that you and your child first pin down the costume that is the End Goal. The next step is obtaining the End Goal, and that is yet more work. If you have time, shop around online so you can see the four or five options online instead of the one option (which you might hate) at the store. If you can swing it, go to the store alone. This is the #1 very best gender-fair thing I can think of because when you enter that Halloween store with your child, the Disney princesses in their shiny packages and all the other branded, stereotyped characters just look so darn alluring. Save yourself. Make the End Goal, that costume you bring home, a present. A surprise. Your child knows what it will be, you can just orchestrate the big reveal. Incidentally, our sewn costumes were just that because my poor mother worked on them in the dead of night between raising us and working all day.

One good example of this, I think, is the year I declared “no more sewn costumes! I will be a princess, and it will be store-bought!” (I’m so sorry, mom. Thank you for working through that with me.) Instead of saying no or being frustrated with that ungrateful behavior, my mother bought me a flowy gold-ish princess-y dress from Costco which she presented to me to wear. It fit the bill, it wasn’t part of any kind of branded collection, and it wasn’t pink. It also sated my appetite for store-bought costumes because the cheaper fabric itched and was freezing cold. I immediately went back to her homemade ones.

Let’s review the components of the Fair Play Shopping Strategy: Determine the End Goal. Shop around online. Shop alone. Big Reveal. Halloween costume success!

I want to showcase some of Fair Play Supermom’s costumes here to thank her, and also to spark your imaginations a little bit. Yes, that’s me in the clown costume at the top of this page.

Ace of Hearts – well loved and reused many Halloweens by family and friends!

Crayon is store-bought (but one of few smiling photos of my baby brother!). Dad’s costume is homemade…from his regular hockey uniform.

My mother couldn’t recall what this is – probably a dinosaur. Warm and cozy on a cold Halloween night!

Parts of this costume aren’t homemade but I couldn’t resist the photo!

This pumpkin is another family favorite. Somehow it worked for all sizes and puffed up round stuffed with newspaper.

Trick or Treat is our annual Halloween series. Last year we blogged about the Fair Play strategy for costumes, and recommendations for books and movies. This year we’ll be re-posting those and adding some Halloween crafts and treats. Stay tuned! Have a specific request? Let us know here or on Facebook.

6 thoughts on “Trick or Treat! Planning the Halloween Costume

  1. I love your approach to gender-fair costumes! So much can be done without shopping for costumes from stores. A personal favorite of mine (as someone who doesn’t sew) is the cowboy/cowgirl outfit. Easy to make it warm, relatively gender neutral, and age appropriate! Keep up the great work!

    • Great point! There are wonderful costumes that can be assembled from pieces you might have at home, requiring no sewing or shopping. Once you pick out the End Goal, there are lots of creative ways to get there. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Thanks for reminding us that you really can make the costume thing a learning and creative experience if you can release from the strictures of store offerings. That is doubtless true in many areas of our lives!

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