Don’t be a Halloweiner: The Costume Edition


WORDS Megan Smith

That special, most spiritual time of year is back again. Halloween is here, so don a rudimentary costume, buy some plastic skulls from The Reject Shop and get ready to have some drunken fun. But, and there is always a but, make sure you’re doing Halloween the right way. Heed my advice, and have the best end of October ever.

Watch out for cultural appropriation.

“Mexican person” is not a costume. “Native American” is not a costume. “Muslim” is not a costume. These are all outfits I saw at the same party last year, and each one has consequences.

Throwing some stereotypes together and slapping on a traditional headpiece of some kind is not clever or subversive, it’s cultural appropriation and it’s not all right. Cast your memory all the way back to last week when an Australian woman (of COURSE she was Australian) got in trouble for having an African themed party. Everybody in attendance sloppily applied what appeared to be shoe polish to their skin and played up the tribal history of Africa. Sounds harmless, right? Except for the fact that Africa is an entire continent with a myriad of different countries and cultures, both cosmopolitan and customary. Cultures are multifaceted entities, so when socially privileged white kids decide that they’ll dress up as something, like, totally wild and hilarious, why do they choose “costumes” from societies that are usually downtrodden or discriminated against?

Halloween is one of the only glorious days of the year that you get to dress up as something completely out of character. So when white dudes think “how WEIRD and FUNNY would it be if I dressed up like a Muslim and tied a tea towel around my head?!” they’re basically saying, “being a Muslim is WEIRD and FUNNY! It’s hilarious to dress like one, because I’m totally not one!” You’re lampooning people that don’t have as much social esteem as you do. While the xenophobia and discrimination in this country doesn’t rest on your shoulders alone, there’s no need to propagate inequity through an ill-conceived, jokey outfit.

If you’re shaking your head at my argument right now, then I strongly encourage you to read this article. There is so much more to cultural appropriation than the PC police breaking down your door and stealing your cool costume ideas away from you.


In segue news; let’s talk about “slutty” costumes. There is a quote from Mean Girls which is so obvious, so eternally relevant, that I don’t even know why I’m typing it out.

“Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it”.

Apt. Well, except for the fact that girls (and some boys) do judge the sexed up party patrons. I know this, because I used to do it.
“For real?” I’d say, “You two are going to a party as a Sexy Mario and a Sexy Luigi? In what universe do two people decide that they want to go as digitized, mustachioed plumbers? As digitized, mustachioed plumbers with their boobs out?”

I know now that people should feel free to dress however sexually they want on Halloween. If that’s the only day that you can express yourself and feel confident in showing off your body, then go for it. Just make sure you’re doing it for yourself. Dress like a sexy old piece of floss if you feel the need, but do it because you think it looks banging, not because everybody else is  going for the boobs angle.

I don’t like to dress in “sexy” Halloween costumes because it feels so expected, like a tradition so weirdly internalized we’re not even sure why we’re doing it, except for the fact that we get to look unapologetically sexualized. I dressed as a scantily clad black cat for Halloween when I was 16 because I wanted to feel like a grown up. Instead of feeling mature, I just felt uncomfortable in my tight clothes. Also I don’t think a “sexy cat” would just wear a black singlet, three pairs of stockings, ears, face paint and have no fur. Then again, I don’t actually know what a “sexy cat” would look like, it’s probably best if we don’t find out. I haven’t worn such an exposing costume since. But if I wanted to dress sexy, I’m glad that Halloween would afford me that luxury. Don’t judge.

Why do we wait for the end of October to go as “Sexy (insert any costume)?” And why is any banal, everyday thing ripe for sexualisation?  Imagine if we dressed like a “Sexy Chess Piece” for Christmas or “Sexy Grapeshot Reader” (that’s everyone who clicked on this article, thanks guys) for New Year’s Eve. Picture a world in which any occasion could call for Halloween-like clothing:

“Hey girl, you feel like dressing up like a Sensual Enema with me?”
“Of course, what’s the occasion?”
*Girls high five & car peels out*

*I don’t really like that word, just because your boobs are out on one specific night, it doesn’t mean you’re a slut*.
** Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Pop culture costumes

Halloween costumes are the best part of the whole darn holiday. If you’re going down the TV/Movie/Film route, you can’t really go wrong. Here are the dos and don’ts.

  • Don’t go as Miley Cyrus/ Robin Thicke. Please. It doesn’t matter if the dude is Miley and the girl is Robin, or if it’s the two dudes/ two girls gender swap schtick. It’s not clever, and nobody needs to see that much beige latex. Speaking of the Cyrus, no more Wrecking Ball inspired outfits. It’s done. It’s over. Kaput. The only wrecking ball related imagery I need to see is this. If you have to do Miley, at least do Hannah Montana. Think of the bejeweled jeans you’ll get to wear!
  • Do go as Walter White/ Jesse/ meth if you must, but know that half the dudes at your chosen party are going to be rocking the fedora and moustache combo. A Breaking Bad costume is the new Clockwork Orange.
  • Don’t go as a ghost and just cut some holes in a sheet. Everybody knows that you’re just lazy. Commitment is EVERYTHING. If you do want to be a ghost, you should go as Patrick Swayze. This works best if you look exactly like Patrick Swayze, if not then everybody is just going to wonder why your hands are covered in clay.
  • Don’t go as Zombie Celebrity That’s Just Died. It’s tacky.
  • Most importantly, DO have fun. It’s not fun unless there are a bunch of arbitrary rules handed down to you in blog form, kay?

Enjoy your yearly dose of Americanization everyone! Don’t be a Halloweiner this time around.