Halloween Costumes: What happened to being a Disney Princess?

31 Oct
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"Devil Girl" costume for girls sold at Spirit Halloween stores

Gone are the days when children rummaged Halloween costumes from attics and closets, donning get-ups that were cheap, creative and, for the most part, innocent.

Now, Halloween celebrates not only all that is spooky, but all that is sexy, too. And as parents head into stores to buy their little ones something to wear on Oct. 31, they’re met with a deluge of costumes for young girls that are smaller, tighter, shorter and more provocative than the year before.

“They’re pretty slutty-looking,” said Linda Swan of Lancaster, while shopping with her grown daughter, Shana, at the Spirit Halloween superstore in Cheektowaga. “I can remember when my own children were clowns, not this kind of stuff…They were cute things.”

Swan’s daughter Shana, 21, a student at Hilbert College, agrees with her mother.

“Young girls are doing things college kids are doing,” she said. “They want to grow up faster.”

Salesperson Kayla Olejniczak has been working at the Spirit store for one year now and shopped there before her employment. Already, she’s noticed the styles have changed.

“They’re a lot shorter,” she said, while folding costumes at the counter. “They’re made cheaper and tighter and a lot more expensive. From what I’ve seen, they take 2 inches off the dresses each year.”

Consider the costume for girls as young as 7, titled “Devil Girl.” It includes a tight red dress, devil wings, black fishnet stockings, fishnet glovelets to the elbows, horns, tail and a mini pitchfork.

Another costume, “Kandy Kornwitch,” features a black lace corset, short peasant dress and sticking out from underneath, a lacy petticoat. The model wears black knee-high boots.

The “tween” costumes for older girls—ages to 14—features slightly more risqué outfits. “Pirate Cutie” includes a short red and black-striped dress, fishnet stockings and glovelets.

“Little Miss Mouse,” another tween costume, includes a short, polka-dot dress with black lace showing from underneath, black stockings to mid-thigh with red bows on the front, a velvet corset and choker collar.

At the Spirit store, not all the costumes are racy. Some are still cute, like the princes costumes manufactured by Disney. But the others, including many manufactured by the Spirit store brand, have a few things in common: short dress, well above mid-thigh, tight-laced corset and suggestive neckline. They are worn my models wearing heavy  make-up and standing provocatively, as if giving the camera their best “sexy” look.

Not everyone worries about this. A salesperson stocking shelves at the Party City store in Cheektowaga (who said she’d rather have her name left out of the story) commented on this.

“They (the children) want fangs, vampires, anything animals. Instead of being princesses, they want to be Hanna Montanta.”

However, she isn’t concerned.

“Fashion changes,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.

Some may wonder who’s responsible for the girls’ sexy costumes. Is it the parents who allow their children to wear the costumes, the media who promote the costumes or the manufacturers who create the costumes?

Celia Rivenbark, nationally syndicated humor columnist and best-selling author of the book, “Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank,” belives that ultimately, parents hold the responsibility for what their children wear.

 

“You can’t really blame the manufacturers because they’re just making what sells,” she wrote in an email exchange. “Blame the dumb-bell parents who think it’s OK for their six-year-old daughter to dress like a hooker for Halloween.”

For Rivenbark, the proper reaction for parents to an inappropriate costume is to just say “no.”

“Try this: Say NO!” she advises. “Let’s remember who’s the parent and who’s the kid here, OK? Somebody has to set rules and stuck by em and stop worrying about being your kid’s best friend. That’s not your job.”

Though some may argue Halloween costumes for young girls are just a fun version of their sexy adult counterparts a few aisles over, a report by the American Psychological Association found that girls are being sexually objectified at a younger age and that it’s having a negative effect on their sense of self-worth.

“I don’t think parents realize that when they are dressing their girls in a sexy way, that they are doing something dangerous,” says Dr. Lora Park, an associate professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo whose areas of research include self-worth and self-esteem. “But over time, it sends the message to the child that how attractive you are to the opposite sex is more important than how smart, creative and talented you are.”

So what’s a parent to do?

Park suggest sitting down with a child to brainstorm ideas for creative costumes that are age-appropriate.

Of course, this isn’t a new idea. And, like many styles, it may come back in vogue.

“We used to make our own costumes,” says Sue Gandolph of Lancaster, while shopping with her grandson at Party City. “We would go into closets and find something to wear.”

She added, “What happened to being a Disney Princess?”

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