Halloween is the perfect time to indulge your sweet tooth with delicious candy and seek some thrills with friends at spooky attractions. It wouldn’t be Halloween, however, without creating some Halloween magic of your own with a beautiful, creepy, scary, funny or clever costume of your own.
Whether you’re looking to bag some great (and sometimes awful) treasures while trick-or-treating, joining a parade, or simply looking to impress your friends at a Halloween party, deciding on the right costume is serious business. There are many things you should be advised against doing while taking part in this spooky spectacle, however, and that includes wearing certain costumes.
You don’t want to wear a costume that will offend others or make them uncomfortable. Cultural appropriation — adopting elements of a minority culture, particularly without permission — is often rampant during Halloween, as are racial and sexist stereotypes. There are also certain lines that should be drawn in terms of how much you scare others; true horror should perhaps be left in the hands of the world-class haunted houses this season. If you’re not sure whether your potential outfits this season are appropriate, you may want to double-check that your ideas didn’t land on this list of Halloween costumes that really need to not be worn anymore.
It’s never a good idea to scare people too much on Halloween. Not only is genuinely scaring people not a nice thing to do, but showing up anywhere with what looks like a real weapon could get you in some serious trouble or even get you hurt in case someone feels they need to defend themselves.
You don’t have to wear a super popular costume, and it's alright if you’re dressed up as a character or object that not many people recognize. But if you’re carrying around a document or photo that helps you illustrate just what you’re dressed up as, maybe it’s just not a very good costume.
“Belly dancing,” or raqs al-sharqi (“dance of the East” in Arabic) as it’s properly called, is an style of dancing that originated in Egypt but has been commodified and often hypersexualized in the West. As a result, the image of the “belly dancer” is one that has many racist and even sexist connotations, encouraging many stereotypes about the Middle East and trivializing what is actually considered to be an important cultural tradition by many Egyptians.
Fat people are very often looked down upon, berated, and excluded from things simply because of how they look. A person’s body type is not a costume, and it can be extremely harmful for someone who is fat to see themselves presented as a punchline. Fatphobia is a thing, and just like other types of discrimination, fatphobia can be super harmful to people. Regardless of your take on health and wellness, no one deserves to be treated like a second-class citizen, and seeing someone dressed up in a costume mocking your body type can seriously ruin Halloween. This kind of ill-advised humor can also be harmful because it makes it harder for people to stop feeling insecure about their bodies and encourages valuing certain body types over others.
Partly thanks to movies like “The Teahouse of August Moon” and “Memoirs of a Geisha,” there are many stereotypes regarding geisha and even Asian women in general that are perpetuated when one dresses up as geisha for Halloween. Often seen as simply a type of Japanese prostitute, geisha are actually female entertainers who are skilled in ancient traditions of Japanese art, music, and dance. Their distinctive makeup and beautiful costumes can be tempting to wear during Halloween, but not only does it encourage stereotypes of Asian women as submissive, but it’s also a form of cultural appropriation.
Many people don’t realize that the word ‘gypsy’ is actually a derogatory term for the Romani people, an ethnic group in Europe and the Americas that traces its roots back to the Indian subcontinent. Just calling yourself a "gypsy" can be considered super disrespectful, and not only is an entire ethnic group not a costume, but many "gypsy" costumes simply perpetuate stereotypes of the Romani people.
Homelessness and hunger are serious issues throughout the world and within the United States. There’s nothing cute or funny about it, and dressing up as a homeless person is not only insensitive to those dealing with hardship, but it also trivializes the issue as a whole.
Mexico is a very large country with a great deal of diversity, but on Halloween, an entire nation and its many different cultures is often boiled down to a sombrero, poncho, and a black curly moustache. It’s racist and unimaginative. Just skip it, and don’t pull that stuff on Cinco de Mayo either.
The history of Native Americans is a violent and tragic one, and many Native communities across the country have made it known how much they do not appreciate being used as mascots and logos or having their symbols appropriated. Native costumes on Halloween are not only blatant appropriation of cultural clothes and customs, but they’re often very disrespectful as certain accessories seen in these costumes, such as headdresses and feathers, have religious significance that is being trivialized.
World War II was a traumatic time across the globe, and to this day, Nazi symbols and insignia are unfortunately used to cause fear and express hate towards minority groups. Not only should you be sensitive to the history of the Nazi Holocaust and how much destruction and devastation the Nazi Party brought to much of Europe, but you should also remember that many of these symbols still stand for much of the same today. Prince Harry once made the mistake of wearing a Nazi German Afrika Korps uniform, complete with a swastika armband, causing great embarrassment for the royal family.
Topical Halloween costumes are always a ton of fun, but especially in today’s climate, politically controversial costumes are perhaps best avoided. Halloween is the perfect day to forget about real life and live out a fantasy life instead. No need to bring everyone back to Earth with fraught political topics or even start a fight when people are just looking to have some fun.
Not only is dressing as a prostitute or pimp super tacky, but it’s also yet another costume that trivializes a big issue. Prostitution can often be a fraught political and social issue, and those involved in the industry are often abused and exploited. Pimps are also frequently abusers themselves, if not involved in human trafficking – definitely not the kind of person you want to dress up as.
Rastafarianism is an actual religion that developed in Jamaica in the 1930s, and dressing up as the member of a religious group is just as inadvisable as making an ethnic or cultural group your costume. There's also a lot more to Rastafarianism than dreadlocks, cannabis, and crochet beanies, and unfortunately, Rastafarian costumes tend to perpetuate these stereotypes. It’s also just not a good idea to wear dreadlocks on Halloween, as they can be a form of blackface if not just downright cultural appropriation.
It’s important to respect other people’s beliefs, and trivializing or making fun of that which others find to be sacred won’t make you very popular at the Halloween party. Dressing up as a nun can be a cool costume, but making that nun sexy is inappropriate as well as insensitive to Catholics. Stay away from criticism, suggestiveness, or insults when it comes to a costume that has to do with a religious figure or idea, and you won’t risk coming off as rude.
There’s more awareness than ever in regards to sexual harassment thanks to the #MeToo movement, so we’re hoping we’ll see less of this from now on. Still, we’d like to reiterate that dressing up in a long coat and pretending to be a flasher is not as funny as you might think it is, as the experience itself can be quite traumatizing. Skip the costumes that refer to Bill Cosby, Mario Batali, Monica Lewinsky and other names in the news associated with sexual harassment or assault cases.
Sugar skulls, or calaveras, are a common sight during Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. El Día de los Muertos is a serious religious holiday that has unfortunately been commodified in the U.S., where its true origins and purposes are often glossed over so that people can enjoy the colorful costumes and decorations. Appropriating those traditions isn’t a good idea if you’re not Mexican, and that includes dressing up as a calavera.
Terrorism is never a laughing matter, nor is it something to be taken lightly in the form of costume. There’s also the fact that many “terrorist” costumes often involve Arab or Muslim garb, making the costume quite racist as well, doubling the insensitivity.
It’s not cute, and it’s super boring. If you don’t feel like wearing a costume, just wear a regular T-shirt. A shirt that has the words ”this is my costume” written on it is not a costume. It’s a lazy cop-out, and way overdone.
Halloween is a great time to celebrate your relationship and your bond with your significant other! It’s not a great time, however, for the two of you to skeeve out everyone around you. You may find dressing up as a plug and socket or hot dog and bun cute, but it’s actually a tad gross – and we’d prefer to keep the grossness at a minimum, especially when there’s delicious candy involved!
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