My thoughts on this holiday are kind of complicated. I really like the idea of an adult party, of dressing up, and of having a night festival. I like the origins, and I think dressing as something that scares you can be very empowering. I always think of our ancestors, and how early costumes or ceremonial wear might have been the skins of large predators, worn as a reassuring reminder of our sharp pointy tools or to channel some of that fierce spirit for ourselves.
I think the adult Hallowe'en thing started with a parade in the 1970s, in New York's Greenwich Village. It was also the de facto gay district, and expressive, over the top costumes became part of the culture. In recent years there have been serious efforts to control crowds in San Francisco's Castro District during Hallowe'en, because the garbage pickup and destruction to the neighborhood are immense, and because it's often packed so shoulder-to-shoulder that it's really dangerous.
I think the explosion of Sexy [Noun] costumes started more recently though, maybe the early aughts, because I remember being a college student (the first time!) and thinking, "There sure are a lot of scantily-clad people around this year." and "... is that a sexy [random thing]??"
So, complicated. On one hand, I hope it goes without saying that I believe every woman should dress in as much or as little as she wishes, and have the safety to go anywhere at any hour without harassment. Do I believe all women, regardless of age and body type, should rock their figures however they wish? Yes. Do I, as an obsessive-compulsive woman who also wears costume elements in her everyday clothing, get disproportionately irritated by nominal "costumes" that clearly put scanty first and any creative thought of dressing up dead last? Yes.
So on Hallowe'en night each year, the bus that runs in front of my school picks up two dozen young women tottering in new 6" heels and well-worn mismatched bras and panties. They may have some random accessories like a plastic cocktail sword or piece of cloth tied to head. And then this line of questioning starts playing in my mind.
Should you feel free to attend a party in your underwear? Yes!
Does your everyday underwear constitute a costume? Probably not!
Why was money spent on shoes of the most illogical make possible in a city where you have to walk everywhere on hills and not on anything else?
Do you know the local thrift shop has truckloads of cool things you can get for a few dollars, that can double as conversation starters at the party you're attending, and triple as protection from the elements?
Do you have any idea how cold you're going to be later? I hope you guys will pitch in for a cab.
Where on earth are you keeping your money and IDs?
... and then the dissonance makes the single gear in my head grind to a halt, the hamster takes a nap on the treadmill, and I'm in a daze the rest of the way home.
I think the thing that keeps poking me, aside from the complete and utter disregard for creative thought, is that there's clearly a desire to go out and feel sexy and have fun, but it only comes out on a holiday in which it's considered 'acceptable'. On a holiday, you can claim a thin pretense of being in costume, to shrug off social ramifications. It's a strange double-standard in which a woman might strip to her underwear for the male gaze, and pretend it's a costume so that same male gaze doesn't decide that she's desirable, but too sexual, so y'know, a slut. And you can read anywhere in the news how the patriarchy views sluts.
Oh and don't get me started on the dearth of non-sexy Hallowe'en costumes for women out there. I want women to feel empowered and free to dress in a way that makes them feel great, whether revealing or covered up, or anywhere on the spectrum in-between. It's just I'd like the options available to reflect that spectrum, and they really don't.
Anyway, I turned the tables by making something that is a noun first, sexy second. (My sewing skills have fortunately improved since I made this.) I wore it to class last year, got my photo taken a few times, and a gal shrieked across the quad that she loves unicorns. A father even pointed out the unicorn to his delighted young son. No one wanted an explanation, or even mentioned the thong. I'm not sure if I was relieved or disappointed. (Probably disappointed. The hot pink zebracheetahleopard print means I'm wearing unicorn camo!)
I was warm, though!
Mane/tail - thrifted scarf
Velvet hoodie and pants - thrifted
Unicorn horn - etsy The Thorn and Rose
Thong - Target