Halloween costumes are costumes worn on or around Halloween, a festival which falls on October 31. The Halloween costume has a relatively short history. Wearing costumes has long been associated with other holidays around the time of Halloween, even Christmas. Among the earliest references to wearing costumes at Halloween is in 1895, where "guisers" are recorded in Scotland, but there is almost no mention of a costume in England, Ireland, or the United States until 1900. Early costumes emphasized the pagan and gothic nature of the holiday, but by the 1930s costumes based on characters in mass media such as film, literature, and radio were popular. Halloween was originally promoted as a children's holiday, and as a means of reining in the wicked and destructive behavior of teenagers. Early Halloween costumes were aimed at children in particular, but after the mid-20th century, as Halloween increasingly came to be celebrated by adults, the Halloween costume was worn by adults as much as children.
History of Halloween costumes
Although Halloween is often claimed to be a cultural descendant of the Celtic festival of Samhain, such claims are generally not considered either historically accurate or scholarly. In particular, the custom of dressing up in costumes and going "guising" or trick-or-treating at Halloween developed from Christian customs created in Western Europe around the 15th century. Guising at Halloween in Scotland is recorded in 1895, where masqueraders in disguise carrying lanterns made out of scooped out turnips, visit homes to be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money. The practice of Guising at Halloween in North America is first recorded in 1911, where a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported children going "guising" around the neighborhood.
The holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day were often celebrated with costume parades, wild parties, and licentiousness of all sorts. In the 18th century in the United Kingdom, Halloween was celebrated in rural areas by farmers as a fertility rite, while in cities it had a Carnival-like atmosphere. But as Halloween was transported to the United States by waves of European immigrants, the licentious and rowdy elements of Halloween were domesticated to conform with the emerging Victorian era morality. Halloween was made into a private rather than public holiday, celebrations involving liquor and sensuality de-emphasized, and only children were expected to celebrate the festival.
While wearing costumes at Halloween is recorded in Scotland in 1895, there is little evidence of costumes in England, Ireland, or the United States prior to 1900, however. Early Halloween costumes emphasized the pagan and gothic nature of Halloween, and were aimed primarily at children. Costumes were also made at home, or using items (such as make-up) which could be purchased and utilized to create a costume. But in the 1930s, A.S. Fishbach, Ben Cooper, Inc., and other firms began mass-producing Halloween costumes for sale in stores as trick-or-treating became popular in North America.
Halloween costumes are often designed to imitate supernatural and scary beings. Costumes are traditionally those of monsters such as vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts, skeletons, witches, goblins, trolls, devils, etc. or in more recent years such science fiction-inspired characters as aliens and superheroes. There are also costumes of pop culture figures like presidents, athletes, celebrities, or characters in film, television, literature, etc. Another popular trend is for women (and in some cases, men) to use Halloween as an excuse to wear sexy or revealing costumes, showing off more skin than would be socially acceptable otherwise. Young girls also often dress as entirely non-scary characters at Halloween, including princesses, fairies, angels, farm animals and flowers.
Halloween costume parties generally fall on or around October 31, often falling on the Friday or Saturday prior to Halloween.
Economics of Halloween costumes
 Researchers conducted a survey for the National Retail Federation in the United States and found that 53.3 percent of consumers planned to buy a costume for Halloween 2005, spending $38.11 on average (up $10 from the year before). They were also expected to spend $4.96 billion in 2006, up significantly from just $3.3 billion the previous year. The troubled economy has caused many Americans to cut back on Halloween spending. In 2009, the National Retail Federation anticipated that American households would decrease Halloween spending by as much as 15% to $56.31. In 2011, Americans spent $6.8 billion dollars to celebrate Halloween, an average of $72.31 per household.[better source needed]
Politics of Halloween costumes
Halloween costumes in the contemporary Western world sometimes depict people and things from present times and are sometimes read in terms of their political and cultural significance. Halloween costumes are sometimes denounced for cultural appropriation when they uncritically use stereotypical representations of other groups of people. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Secretary Julie Myers was involved in a scandal when she awarded "Best Costume" at the ICE Halloween party to an 'escaped Jamaican prisoner' dressed in dreadlocks and blackface.
Halloween is a time where both males and females around all over the country display their gender in a unique way. Many studies show that Halloween costumes reinforce traditional gender roles and gender stereotypes. Halloween is a time where gender is emphasized and costumes represent strong images of masculinity and femininity. Pictures are put on the packages to discourage parents from buying “wrong”-sexed costumes.  The names of the costumes and the pictures play a role in assisting parents and children on what costumes are appropriate for their gender. Costumes are very gender specific and clearly alert the consumer as to which gender is supposed to wear them.  The usage of the word “girl” “woman” and “lady” in costume labels shows who the costumes are intended for.
In the marketplace there is a scarcity in gender neutral costumes. Costumes for boys are associated with being adventurous and heroic. The heroic theme for girls’ costumes is domesticated and emphasizes the ideal image of feminine beauty. What constitutes as a hero for girls and boys greatly differs. There is an emphasis on importance of working and financial success for men and physical attractiveness and marriage for women. Many costumes reduce women to commodities and inanimate objects. Girls’ costumes are oftentimes secondary characters; they include the sidekick of the hero, his girlfriend, or his damsel in distress. The market’s options and availability to costumes shape how people view gender. Brenda Weber, director of undergraduate studies in Indiana’s University said a revealing costume can allow a woman to live out an abstract ideal or female fantasy that is difficult to do in her regular life. She said these fantasies are often shaped by the media, advertising and consumerism.  Many women think that Halloween is a time they can be empowered and dress however they want to, but society in fact sets the standards. A common trend during Halloween time is women embracing their sexiness and men expressing their sense of humor.
Sexual Expression in Women’s Costumes
To many women, Halloween is a day to express their sexuality. Many women dress in revealing and provocative clothing because they believe it is the one day a year where they will not be judged and scrutinized by the rest of society. Dressing up allows women to wear skin-bearing heights that would be frowned-upon in the light of day.  Any other day of the year society would frown upon revealing clothing, especially during the time of October. The marketplace puts a strong emphasis on sexy costumes for women. In the fall of 2010, Victoria’s Secret started selling Halloween costumes. Victoria’s Secret’s competitor, Frederick’s of Hollywood said that Halloween is their third largest season after Valentine’s Day and Christmas.  Lingerie companies are taking advantage of the opportunity to sell sexy Halloween costumes. Sex sells in our society, especially in the Halloween market. Many female costumes are the equivalent of men’s but the word “sexy” is added to the name. This common trend makes women subordinate to men by being the sexual object. This fantasy of a woman being something associated as a masculine career is often sexualized and risks women in the actual profession being taken seriously. There are reported to be less female villain costumes in the market. The costume for female villains emphasize the erotic side of their villainy (e.g., Enchantra, Midnite Madness, Sexy Devil, Bewitched) or to neutralize the malignancy of the character by employing adjectives that emphasized their winsome rather than wicked qualities (e.g., Cute Cuddley Bewitched, Little Skull Girl, Pretty Little Witch.)  Women are made sexy or cute when they are villains because women are seen to be passive and not aggressive. Society attempts to highly feminize costumes for women and reinforces the idea that women are sexual objects.
What Children Learn About Gender
Gender is reinforced through Halloween costumes. Children participate in gender socialization by choosing costumes that appeal to their gender. The market place plays a huge role in giving expression to children’s imagination in their Halloween costume selection.  Children have less decision making than one would think because the market creates the options available to children. The problem with the market being in control is that it facilitates fantasy play. It shapes how children role-play. Children often pick costumes of people that they aspire to be. When the market creates costumes that are representative of traditional gender roles, children play into these roles and thus it reinforces traditional roles. In a study done in 1992, it found that the enforcement of traditional gender roles during Halloween is perpetuated by parental preference and further reinforced by costume manufacturers  Children may think they are making the decisions when in fact they are not. Parents and society guide children in their costume selection. Gender neutral costumes are often seen in babies. Once children reach childhood, there are more pressures to dress in costumes that appropriately suit their gender. In a study done in 1993, researchers found that once a child has a better understanding of the gender schema as well as the biological basis for being male or female, the child is more flexible.  Younger girl’s costumes were reported to be more feminine than older girls’ costumes and younger boys’ costumes were more masculine than older boys’ costumes. There is an emphasis on gender appropriate costumes when children are young so that they learn their early on. With more knowledge and experience, children are able to gender bend when it comes to costumes. It can be seen as a way to be someone different. Early on children are learning gender and performing it by their costume selection.
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