Halloween is huge in Tokyo — as I write this in a local coffee shop, I can see half a dozen pumpkin decorations without even turning my head. As I prepare for Halloween in Shibuya — the nightlife epicenter of Tokyo — I find myself running into the same challenges I’ve faced every year since I graduated high school. My Halloween costume confusion got me reminiscing on this blog post I wrote in 2014, during my first semester of college. Now my last Halloween as an undergraduate is approaching and I relate to 18-year-old Erin more than ever.
When it came time to brainstorm costume ideas for my first college Halloween, I started by reminiscing about Halloweens past. I quickly realized that none of my favorite homemade costumes were going to cut it in college — I didn’t have time to enlist my grandmother’s help sewing a full-on Disney princess costume, I wasn’t yet close enough with any of my college friends to revisit the nerdy BFF costumes I wore in high school and I couldn’t imagine a crowded house party in the green Lego costume of 2001. Still hopeful, I dragged my boyfriend to the Halloween store to look for ideas, but after half an hour of wandering the store, I found myself confused, exhausted and still costume-less. Now, days from Halloween, I still don’t have a costume, but I do at least have a better understanding of what I’m calling the Five Stages of Halloween.
Stage 1: Over-ambition
Halloween is my favorite holiday, so I spend all year racking up ideas “for next Halloween,” which, of course, never come to fruition. Brilliant ideas for group costumes get less and less elaborate as Halloween creeps up and suddenly, I’m going to be Medusa and I’ll get real snakes for my hair and I’ll actually turn people to stone and and and… becomes Maybe I’ll just buy my costume this year.
Stage 2: Confusion
Suddenly it’s two weeks before Halloween and you have no time to make a mind-blowing costume, so you shamefully drag yourself to the Halloween store to look for something over-priced and cheaply made. There, you find yourself in an alternate universe where very normal things are marketed as “sexy.” Was that a sexy corn costume? Is that supposed to be ironic? Why does it cost $60? Pair with that incredibly racist “sexy Indian” costume* and you’ve got yourself the makings of a nice, wholesome first Thanksgiving theme (or porno?). You notice a nurse costume marketed towards men which, shockingly, actually looks like something a nurse would wear. Next to it is the nurse costume for women, which is called “Naughty Nurse,” costs $40 more for significantly less fabric and comes with a working syringe for your booze! You move on, and notice a similar pattern with various other professions, including police officer and soldier.
*DON’T DO THIS. Culture is not a costume. More on this here.
Stage 3: Anger
Okay, seriously now, does there have to be a sexy Chucky costume? What is sexy about a murderous talking doll? Even worse is the sexy Olaf costume. Why aren’t soccer moms everywhere fighting to protect the sanctity of Disney’s Frozen? Is nothing sacred? Obviously not, you think as you pass the sexy nun costumes. At this point, you’re pissed off. You suddenly hate all men and the misogynist expectations associated with Halloween costumes and you hate sexy costume-wearing women for perpetuating the tradition. You remember overhearing a guy on your floor say, “I think for girls, Halloween is just an excuse to wear as little as possible,” and start fuming. I’ll show them, you think. I’ll wear as many layers as I can this Halloween! I’ll go to the Halloween party as laundry! You realize you may have crazy eyes and it’s probably time to leave the Halloween store.
Stage 4: Guilt
Once you start thinking a little more rationally, you feel ashamed for judging your classmates based on whether or not they choose to wear a “sexy” Halloween costume. No one’s worth is determined by how little they choose to wear, so whether the girl next to you on the dance floor is dressed as a sheet ghost or barely dressed at all, defend her and her choices. I could use this holiday to take back female sexuality and empower myself! you think. The new riot grrrl revolution lies in sexy Halloween costumes! Then you realize you’re more of a Zooey Deschanel than an Angelina Jolie and you’d look more awkward than sexy and rebellious in anything too skimpy. You can still feel empowered this Halloween by refraining from using sexist slurs like “slut” to describe anyone’s costume. The sexy costume isn’t your thing? Don’t fall under the pressure to wear one, but also remember not to chastise those who do. Admire their confidence and move on.
Stage 5: Giving in and wearing cat ears
So here we are. Halloween is upon us and if you’re anything like me, you’ve gone through all four previous stages of Halloween and now find yourself defeated and still lacking a costume. Your worst nightmare is coming true — you’re settling for the easy way out. You can’t even say it. C-a-t. It’s time to accept your fate — you’re going out this Halloween wearing the least creative costume there is. But you find relief in your less-than-purrfect costume. Maybe you even find comfort in the sisterhood of millions of girls who have resorted to cat ears and whiskers on Halloween. Maybe the quintessential Halloween costume for feminists is the cat — the costume that brings us all together.