Words: Maeve Gorman (She/Her)
Days are getting short; the weather is getting colder and ‘What are you going as?’ is the question on everyone’s lips. Deadlines can wait… it’s the costume that matters. Spooky season is upon us.
This year, it’s time to wave goodbye to the Squid Game and Euphoria inspired costumes of 2021 and look to the newest pop culture phenomena: Barbiecore is in; thanks to those pictures of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling; scammer chic is hot this year, so expect to see some Anna Delvey and Elizabeth Holmes lookalikes; and in 2022, or the year of ‘Miss Flo’, literally any character from Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling is set to be a safe bet.
Halloween has origins with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The pagan festival marked the end of the harvest and the onset of darker winter months. Ancient Celts lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off evil spirits. Fast forward a couple of centuries, and Halloween is a corporate hit. In the UK alone, Halloween expenditure is estimated to total £687 million this year. With rising living costs (the price of a pumpkin has gone up by 22p since last year) is splashing out on the hottest Halloween ‘fit worth it?
Halloween is a symptom of everything that is wrong with the fashion industry. Halloween only strengthens the bond between fashion and capitalism. Halloween costumes are designed to be worn once, offering the perfect scapegoat for fast-fashion giants who thrive
off of the “wear once, buy more” mentality. They don’t miss the opportunity to cash in. Shein, Boohoo and Fashion Nova (a brand which turns over $500 million per year and reportedly pays its textile workers as little as $2.77 an hour), offer Halloween ‘fits for as little as £10. Although frightening, when it’s a week until the 31st and you have three costume parties at the weekend, this appears an enticing offer.
I haven’t worn the £10 nylon skirt I bought for last year’s half-hearted Avril
Lavigne costume and the curling tongs I frantically purchased the previous year to
recreate Merida’s fiery locks sit barely-used in the corner of my room. I would have never bought them, or even considered buying from a fast-fashion brand, for any other occasion. The pressure to have a hot, original, and effortless costume impacts my purchasing patterns, turning a second-hand lover into a fast-fashion fiend.
Not only is there the pressure to find the perfect Halloween ‘fit – it also has to be sexy. In the wise words of queen bitch Cady Heron: ‘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.’ This can be liberating. Slut shaming takes a well-earned day off, and we can dress how we want. Perhaps we should be allowed similar liberties on every other day of the year?
Thanks to the male gaze in the media, we know that ‘boys don’t like funny girls’. Think Georgia’s ‘olive’ costume in Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging or Lexi Howard’s Bob Ross in HBO’s Euphoria. It appears that spooky season has to be sexy season. The only problem is that on a random day in October many of us don’t feel like the hottest, sexiest, sluttiest version of ourselves. For me, the day of a Halloween party comes with something spookier than any costume – a body image crisis. I dress more outrageously, exposing different parts of my body. All of my previous costumes have also been a million miles away from my everyday style. Dressing as someone else, let alone a sexy version of someone else, can be a totally dysmorphic experience.
Cosplay, however, can be empowering and liberating. Studies claim wearing a costume can influence your behaviour. You can become powerful, free and heroic, inhabiting the traits of the figure you’re emulating. You can mess with gender norms. You can embody traits that aren’t typically “masculine” or “feminine”. Cosplay is a realm in which gender is more fluid and flexible. We are allowed to enjoy the freedom that presenting a heightened image of yourself can provide. It is an opportunity to have fun and learn something new about yourself; something you can transfer into your everyday style. Cosplay creates authenticity.
This year, I pledge to do all I can to avoid my annual pre-Halloween breakdown. If I buy anything new for my costume, I want to be able to wear it again and again; I don’t want to feel the fast-fashion induced guilt of Halloween’s past. I want to wear something that encapsulates my everyday style. For me, spooky season is worth the hype. It gives us the freedom to create, experiment and express ourselves. Forget about the trend cycle and have fun. Being you is sexy.