I'm Too Sexy for My... Costume?

“What do you wanna be for Halloween?” Taylor whispers to her friend Kayla in her 6th grade history class.
“A naughty nurse! What about you?”
“A racy referee!”
Whatever happened to good ol’ princess costumes? Anyone? How about a clown?
Halloween costumes are becoming smaller, racier and sexier. These kinds of provocative costumes have always been available for adults, but have you noticed how frequently they are being marketed to our teens and tweens in the last few years?
My 13-year-old and 15-year-old girl love costumes, so they are quick to grab the “Party City” costume insert in the paper each week during the month of October. Have you seen these ads? Some of these might as well be in the Victoria Secret catalogue. Alyssa picked up this week’s little costume insert and saw a picture of this girl in the little blue outfit highlighted on the back of the ad (the picture on the right). She laughed and asked me (and I quote), “What’s this costume supposed to be, girl in slutty blue dress?”
It’s funny. Many of the costumes don’t seem to have a point, other than to be short and provocative. Sadly, parents are “lowering the bar” and purchasing these kinds of costumes for their daughters. This is yet another instance when parents should read the American Psychological Association’s report, The Sexualization of Girls and consider the consequences that go along with lowering our standards like this.
Jump on Party City’s costume website and look at the most popular costumes they market to our teenager girls. Girls can choose from costumes like the Teen Girls Racy Referee Costume. Or for those who want to pay tribute to our soldiers, why not get your daughter a Teen Girls Sassy Sailor Costume.
As a dad of two teenage girls, I can assure you… there is no way they are leaving my house wearing something like this! Sadly, many parents allow this. You should have seen the average dress size at the Homecoming dance I chaperoned a few weekends ago. Some of those dresses would have made Katy Perry blush.
We need to stop lowering the bar.
Many teenage girls aren’t going to just consider costumes for teenagers (they’ll let our tween girls do that—kids always dress up one age group. That’s why some of the girls in my daughter’s junior high school PE class wear thongs), they’re going to look at the costumes for adults. That opens up a whole world of choices for young girls. Now they can dress up as Mile High Captain (my 13-year-old asked me why she was called that. Sigh.) or Dirty Cop.
Amazon.com offers a bunch of really crude and racy costumes as well, costumes like “Gropin Granny” or “d**k-head,” a costume where guys dress up as… well… yes, the male genitalia (Yeah, I didn’t include a pic of that one). I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. This costume is probably pretty accurate to what we’ve all become dressing up our females like we do.
If a man wants to buy a sexy costume for his wife when the trick-or-treaters are gone and the kids are asleep, have fun! (hmmmm… that gets me thinking) …but can we please stop marketing this stuff to our kids?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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28 Responses to I'm Too Sexy for My... Costume?

  1. Jon says:

    I so agree with you!! You know, as a dad with two young sons (and another on the way) I am concerned about this as well. It is increasingly difficult for young men to keep their minds pure when everywhere they look these are the images they see. I have struggled (and continue to) with my own purity in my mind and being bombarded with images like these from every side makes it difficult to maintain that level of purity. I am confident, however, that if we are seeking the kingdom of God first in our lives, our Father strengthens us to stand the test. I believe we, as dads and role models, can teach and train up a generation of young people who love the Lord so passionately that they are willing to lay aside their worldly lusts and focus on the reality of our call in the kingdom. To live Holy lives, set apart from the world! Loving and teaching them by our example of Godliness!! There is hope yet! Thank you for all you do to encourage the body and lead by example! May God bless you today! And may God strengthen you as you have to make decisions about which costume your daughters will wear! Personally, I like the Giant M&M costume! Haha, I figure that one is pretty safe. Let’s just not let party city get their hands on it!!

  2. Chris Roth says:

    I wonder if the men and women who design and market these costumes allow their own children to wear these for Halloween?

  3. Michelle says:

    I feel your pain. Last week, I took my girls shopping for costumes. My 11-year-old wanted to be an angel. We had already purchased wings, and just needed a white dress. After an hours-long search of the malls and all the Halloween specialty stores, she had to settle for a devil costume. (It was the only thing they had in her size that was an appropriate length.) Thankfully, my 14-year-old found a long, modest hippie dress on her first search. I complained to every store manager, but was met with shrugs.

  4. Ha… we know our society has gone downhill when angels become devils! :)

  5. Tracey says:

    I agree on all counts of your article. I remember being in middle school and sneaking out some of my mom’s lipstick halloween night(s) for my costumes (I sure thought I was being devious!!!).Those were the days!!! I feel for my 12 year old son who is going to be exposed to these costumes this year:( I try to instill in him what is right and wrong, and what is appropriate for the young women his age to be wearing. Now is the time for prayer!
    Thank you Jonathon for your diligence in educating us parents (I have a 10 year old girl too!).

  6. Jeff says:

    As a youth minister in an urban community, I have found that many parents are not involved enough in their teens lives to know what to say or do in this and other similar situations. It is not that they do not care, they do not like confrontation therefore do nothing. Thanks to you for your information and to all the parents who share their experiences and ideas.

  7. Ray says:

    Most of the time parents are clueless to what is going on with their kids and with our present culture … and sadly don’t even make the effort to find out :(

  8. Melanie says:

    And, as if the extreme lack of choice isn’t frustrating enough, how do you explain that you won’t buy that costume because it’s “sleezy”, “slutty”, “trashy” to your blessedly naive young daughter who just thinks it’s really cute. Sigh…I hate this “holiday”.

  9. Ronald says:

    Excellent blog article Jonathan! It’s too bad that society feels/thinks it’s ok to showcase our young girls/young women as “eye candy”. It’s already hard enough for young boys/young men who are dealing with their raging hormones, then they get a peek at this kind of stuff. I’ve talked with my 12 yr old son about it already and I’m sure I’ll have many more talks with him about how/why young women are portrayed like this these days. Again, great blog, thanks!

  10. These are great comments.

    A re-occuring theme of “how do I tell my daughter that!” keeps rising to the surface.

    I’ve been learning that lesson lately. I’ll probably be talking about it more in an upcoming blog, but here’s the short of it. I used to have a weekly breakfast with each of my kids, and this past year’s schedule change axed that. We’ve been surviving… but a couple instances where we needed to talk about issues didn’t go so well. Soon I realized… my relationship wasn’t as strong.

    I’ve resumed the breakfasts/lunches with my kids- yes- that takes a lot of time. It’s AMAZING how much easier it is to deal with them know because we have that regular time for me to talk with them and listen.

  11. Rebecca says:

    I don’t think it’s just a costume issue either… Sometimes I look around CHURCH on Sunday morning and all I can think is “Their DAD let them out of the house like that?” I don’t understand parents who can’t say NO, who can’t set standards for church, for day to day, let alone Halloween.

  12. Abe Haley says:

    I find that biggest struggle is defining modesty for the girls in my youth ministry. I am not sure if I can totally identify with them.

    I do not have kids yet, so I do not want to come off as a parent who understands, but at the same time I do not want to call a girl a “hootch”

    I like the article. thanks man for your openness.

  13. Joe says:

    Great Blog! I agree we must be diligent as to what our children are being exposed to and generally HOW they are exposed! Way to many bad examples out there. My dughters are both grown with the youngest being 27 so we did not have to deal with these types of costumes. Their ideas of costumes ranged from princesses to hobos. But the issue goes beyond halloween. Some of the rather revealing clothes parents allow their daughters to wear everyday and to Church completely baffels me.

  14. marlene says:

    I just tried finding homemade costume ideas for my 14 year old daughter. One idea listed on Squidoo, for a 15 year old, was to dress as a school girl and have your boyfriend go as a child molester. I found that to be very disturbing. Sadly parents buy these sexy costumes.

  15. Kendra says:

    I loved getting this blog on my phone today! I have walked through the stores looking at costumes and I agree they are getting “trashy”. My 9 year old daughter doesn’t want to be a princess this year, but considering the only alternative choices, I think she is just going to just have to be a princess again. I guess I’m glad that I have three boys and don’t have to worry as much on the costume choices. So, for now they can still be little monkeys and I hope that we can get back to costumes for girls that will represent how innocent and sweet they are versus how much they can show of their bodies to make them “cute”. I guess I will never be able to understand how stores thinks it’s “okay” to sell this stuff….

  16. marlene says:

    I think our girls are seeing it as normal, I have a very hard time shopping for them because they have long legs and everything is already too short and too low. I tell my girls all the time, that if you don’t respect your bodies then no one else will.

  17. allen says:

    thanks for your thoughts. i am amazed at what parents consider to be ok and harmless. the modesty battle is one that has around a long time. i hate it. i have found that on wednesday nights, i set the thermostat on 68 degrees year round. so pretty much every wednesday, even when its 100+ outside (i live in texas) they show up with a sweatshirt because they know it will be cold in theyouth building. i try to encourage my students and not judge them. some wear clothes that are too small because they have outgrown them and cant afford new ones. we made t-shirts that say “pro modesty. keep on keepin it on.” and “modest is hottest”. bottom line is that it is an identity issue. they have to know who they are in Christ and seek pleasing Him over pleasing man. easy to say, but i still struggle with it myself.

  18. Mike Fitzpatrick says:

    Whereas I agree that our culture flaunts sexuality far too much, especially when it comes to our teenagers, I have to question the wisdom of showing examples on your blog. We don’t need the images to know what you are talking about. There may be many youth workers who struggle with sexual temptation, and images like these do not help. Just my $.02 worth…

  19. Mary Hickcox says:

    This is SO timely. I disciple two youth gals and have been printing excerpts from your blog articles to go along with our study of “Lies Young Women Believe and the Truth that Sets them Free…” I highly recommend getting the book/study guide and going through it with your gals. Caution, however, the authors don’t pull any punches and do offer graphic examples at times. If these aren’t your own kids, give the book to parents to preview and get their approval. Excellent book!
    Regarding showing these “sexy” images on your blog, I have to agree with Mike Fitzpatrick above…protecting our brothers (and sisters) in Christ is not only important with stressing modesty, but being modest ourselves. Your writing is excellent…you don’t need to “enhance” it with the provocative pics. Keep fighting the good fight brother! =:o)

  20. Randi says:

    I agree! All of the costumes out there are RIDICULOUS!

    We had a Trunk or Treat Event for our AWANA students (5th grade and younger). I was going to be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. When I went to the store to get my costume, they only had “Sexy Dorothy.” I was disgusted. The only time I need to be “sexy” anything is for my husband, and Trunk or Treat is certainly not the place for that …

    My mom ended up sewing me a costume because no one had the “regular” variety!

  21. Showing pics is always a tough call.

    I’ve been doing parenting workshops for years. It’s funny, there have been times where I just describe how bad it is, then there are times when I show an MTV video or preview (nothing pornagraphic or Rated R, but definitely like these pics- things you see in the grocery store isle in the magazines to your left and right). And every time I show parents this stuff, they say, “I had no idea!” They even go as far as to say, “I heard it was bad, but I have no idea!” The description just doesn’t cut it.

    So I continue to show some pics, trying to never show anything too risque’ or that would cause someone to stumble, just enough to give a glimpse of what our kids are absorbing. The true sad fact is, these pics are TAME compared to what our kids saturate every day!

    The pics in this blog were a judgement call. Sorry if they crossed the line for some. Not my intention at all.

    Thanks for your input. I appreciate it.

  22. Halloween – I realise that Halloween is a much bigger deal in America than it is in Australia – although it is getting bigger in this country. I don’t want to sound like a party killer, but it bothers me that people who would identify themselves as Christians, would want to be celebrating this event at all. How many of those who have identified in this blog that they were helping their teenager to clebrate this event really understand the origins of it? I think they would be shocked if they really knew its history. If we are going to celebrate halloween as Christians, can I suggest that we do so redemptively – eg. Lightparty (see website)

    Below is part of a pamphlet from Jubilee Resources International Inc [www.jubilee.org.nz] about Halloween’s history:

    Many think Halloween comes from America, but actually it is a Celtic pagan festival from Britain and northwest Europe, dating from at least 500 BC. The Celts worshipped many gods & goddesses, encouraged by a secret priestly
    society known as the Druids. They engaged in occult arts, especially the worship of nature, and gave supernatural qualities to oak and mistletoe trees. Even the Celtic kings
    feared the Druids. When a king became too old to lead in a battle, the Druids would sacrifice him, cutting him up while still alive and use his organs for divination.
    The Celts had at least 400 gods, and one of them, “Samhain”, their god of Death, was worshipped on October 31st, the last day of the northern autumn, their New Year’s Eve. They believed that on this night the
    Lord of Death gathered the souls of the evil dead who had been condemned to enter the bodies of animals, and then decided what animal form they would take for the
    next year. The souls of the good dead were also believed to be reincarnated as humans. They even falsely believed that the punishment of the evil dead could be lightened by
    sacrifices, prayers, and gifts to the Lord of Death. And on this night, Samhain allowed the spirits of those who had died during the previous year to return for a few hours to
    associate with their families.

    (The story gets worse from here!)

    © 2010, Jubilee Resources International Inc
    Halloween-Free Zone

  23. Charlie says:

    I agree that this issue is out of control. I also agree that it goes on all year, even at church, with the idea of “modesty” disappearing more and more. I also agree that putting the images of sexy costumes on the blog may not be a great idea. But I appreciate your honesty and telling what is really going on.

  24. Lydia Provow says:

    I was with the ones who mentioned that the actual pictures being posted may not have been in good taste, but I do understand the reasoning better. Thanks for the calm, reasoned explanation. As for whether or not to celebrate halloween, my family never did growing up, but I never felt like I missed anything because our church always had some kind of alternative fall fest or something. Now that we have young kids of our own, my husband and I have recently began to discuss whether or not we should even create an alternative for this pagan holiday. I lean towards “yes!” because that is the way I grew up, but I am interested in other opinions on the subject. As for the modesty issue, I can definitely say that, from the perspective of a wife and mother of two little girls, I do not want my girls to grow up thinking that costumes like the ones above are normal or acceptable in any sense of the words! Thank you for taking a stand on the matter! God bless!

  25. liza says:

    I totally agree. I’m thirteen and last halloween I had the hardest time finding a modest costume!! I finally found one that would be long enough if I bought it in a size bigger than my usual size. Anyways, I agree.

  26. Auttumn says:

    I completley agree. i’m 15 and though i myself am not completley modest some people take it way to far. halloween is centerd around children there should not be Slutty costumes it’s wrong my 10 year old sister wants to be a PLAYBOY BUNNY!

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