Challenging the cultural pressure to wear sexy costumes


I walk down the aisles of Party City, browsing the costume section for something to wear on Halloween. All I see are typical “sexy” costumes for women. Sexy cat, sexy witch, sexy nurse, sexy maid. Wait, hold up. Sexy Minion? Now that’s a bit too far.

Every October, the costume business makes millions of dollars selling costumes targeted toward women. The industry is trying to sexualize even the most innocent of costume ideas — I’ve seen everything from a “sexy” pizza to a “sexy” Spongebob.

The lengths that the costume industry goes to in order to sexualize costumes is ridiculous. Nowadays as a female, your options are pretty much limited to costumes that include the word “sexy.” Women are being discouraged from wearing scary or actually imaginative costumes. What ever happened to dressing up without having to worry about how sexy you are? Why does Halloween have to be a “who can show more skin” competition?

Why does Halloween have to be a “who can show more skin” competition?

Halloween is meant to allow people to let out their inner creativity, not to pressure them into dressing inappropriately for the sake of being sexualized. Dressing up in scanty costumes is not in the Halloween tradition.

The emphasis placed on wearing revealing costumes reduces women to just their bodies.

That is not to say that I’m slut shaming women who show skin and cleavage. Women should be allowed to wear whatever they want without feeling ashamed about their bodies.

However, women shouldn’t feel obligated to exploit their bodies in order to fit the societal construct that women should be sexy.

The scanty costume tradition, especially prevalent on college campuses, contributes to the objectification and sexualization of women. It only reinforces the idea that women’s bodies are explicitly sexual.

Ultimately, women are faced with the dilemma of having to choose between two options: Dress sexily and be judged, or don’t dress sexily and still be judged. There’s no winning in this situation.

The issue isn’t that women are wearing provocative costumes. The issue is how they are being treated as a result of their costumes. Women are constantly being slut shamed based on what they wear, especially during Halloween.

What’s more is that there are many conflicting aspects to this tradition. People judge women for exposing too much of their bodies but call them prudes if they don’t wear a “sexy” costume. 

The scanty costume tradition is being held as a standard for all women on Halloween. Girls are expected to dress this certain way, but are criticized when they do. The contradictory nature of this tradition makes it difficult for women to be seen as anything but sexualized beings.

Halloween is a chance for women to celebrate and express their sexuality. But it quickly becomes an issue when they are being judged and measured based on their bodies.

In the end, women who either do or don’t dress provocatively on Halloween want the same thing, which is to be able to control what they do with their bodies. And neither group should be judged for that.

Email Sharon Kim at


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