Kirsten O'Brien/The AS Review

In 2004’s catty blockbuster hit “Mean Girls” Lindsay Lohan’s character Cady Heron describes Halloween as a thinly-veiled excuse for women everywhere to don polyester bunny ears and strap on their tallest pair of heels. Perhaps best of all, because it’s Halloween, they can get away with it.

“In girl world,” Lohan’s character says, “Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.”

While the quote is meant to exaggerate and poke fun at female high school stereotypes, one can’t help but walk into a costume shop during Halloween time and notice the “Red Hot Riding Hood” or “Officer Naughty” costumes. In Halloween City and Spookshop, two Bellingham seasonal costume shops, these types of costumes are the overwhelming majority.

Ashley Green, a Spookshop employee and Whatcom Community College student, said that “Alice in Wonderland” costumes have been wildly popular this year. She said their popularity may be due to the release of Tim Burton’s recent remake of the classic film. The shop stocks over 20 different Alice-themed costumes, many of which feature a short dress, low-cut top and high white stockings. Disney princess-themed costumes have also been popular, with “Snow White” and “Sleeping Beauty” being some of the top-selling costume themes, she said.

“For women, the sexier costumes are definitely more popular,” Green said.

Bryna Hoffmeister, another Spookshop employee, said that not all customers come in looking for overly revealing costumes. She said “Super Mario Brothers” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” costumes have also been popular with both genders. However, the top sellers for women have been elaborate and often revealing costumes, while men have gone for simpler and easier ones.

“For men, they don’t care about trying on a costume, they’re usually up for anything.” she said. “But women, they want to be the pretty princess.”

Part of the reason that women gravitate towards revealing costumes is because Halloween is the one time of year that it’s socially acceptable to do so, said Lizzie Lamb, Associated Students Women’s Center coordinator. Women in particular see the holiday as a way to let loose and dress in ways that aren’t normally appropriate.

“Sexy and scandalous costumes are glorified,” Lamb said. “Women who dress scandalously tend to get more attention too. It becomes a competition among women; who can dress the most sexy or attract the most attention.”

Lamb also said that women’s Halloween costumes tend to be limiting. While men often dress in ironic or funny costumes, women’s costumes are either very revealing or very conservative.
Western Journalism Professor Tim Pilgrim teaches a mass media course that explores gender roles more in depth. Pilgrim said that people learn how to behave by watching TV and movies at a very young age.

He said that the Halloween costumes are just the result of the roles men and women have been taught to fill.

No matter how people dress on Halloween, the important thing to remember is to dress in whatever way makes you feel the most comfortable, Lamb said. It’s up to the individual, whether that means dressing scantily, conservatively or somewhere in between.

“Women, as well as men, should be able to wear whatever they want,” Lamb said. “Just do whatever feels most comfortable for you.”