Halloween Costumes and Inner Conflict

Halloween scares me. Of course, I’m scared of lots of things—poverty, cancer, rape, gang violence, Satan, etc. I thought I should admit that up front.  Make of it what you will.

Let’s talk about my October 31 fears. Last year, I picked up my daughter from middle school and discovered the truth: Halloween is just a widespread excuse for immodesty. Oh! The mini-skirts! The black fishnet stockings! The spaghetti straps! The teenage cleavage! And thighs! I haven’t seen so much skanky clothing since, hmmm, I don’t know, . . . high school in the 1980s. What is it about Halloween that brings out the inner tramp in these girls? While wearing a YW medallion or Armor of God pendant might not be the height of en vogue, neither is it a fashion faux pas with most of my daughters’ friends, so I surprised at the (lack of) costumes.

That was last Halloween, and I never got around to blogging about it, which showcases another fear of mine: unfinished projects. Then I attended our ward’s Halloween party and realized this problem is much, much deeper than I had previously supposed.

Halloween is not just an excuse for young and (this is even more scary) not-so-young girls and guys to expose themselves. Many of us also use it to express our hidden fascination with the gruesome, the grisly, the violent, and the macabre—our inner ax murderer, so to speak. Look, I come from a family of hunters and guns, and we raised our own beef cattle, which we slaughtered, thus I’m no stranger to blood and guts. I really did not enjoy it, but I felt like it would be hypocritical to eat meat and refuse to participate in the process. Halloween costumes take things to a different level of gore and human bloodshed. It seems like a celebration of disgusting inhumanity. How else can I explain the knives sunk to their hilts in the soft neck tissues and all the colorful clotted blood dripping down to one’s fingertips? Just the neighbors I want to sit by at the ward chili cook-off/trunk-or-treat activity. Yummy.

Of course, by now you are saying, “Sister Kylie, you take this all too seriously. Relax. You’re sounding judgmental and squeamish.” And you’re right. There are plenty of princesses, pumpkins, and teddy bears in the costume line-up. No doubt they are expressing their inner regality and loveable-ness, and they will all grow up to be fabulous, contributing members of society.

And it’s certainly possible that Halloween costuming doesn’t express anyone’s inner desires at all. Maybe they just bought that costume because it was cheap, or maybe it was a hand-me-down, or maybe it simply was what their mom or dad made for them. Maybe they are just costumes. See, Kylie, there’s nothing to be scared of.

So I can just end the blog right now and go finish my costume. Because yes, I, myself, enjoy a bit of holiday revelry, though I’m not one who dusts off her Christmas Pageant angel costume a few months early for Halloween double duty. No, no. I recently discovered my prom dress in my mother’s basement. I am happy to say that it still fits, which, as any stylish mother of five knows, is reason enough to wear it. Plus, I am feeling the need to be a 1980s Prom Queen. Because I never was one, you know. Not even a Prom Princess or Attendant or whatever they were called. I’m not bitter, and I’m not upset about that at all. So don’t read anything into it. It’s just a costume, albeit one that needs some alterations on the sleeves to make them completely modest.

45 comments for “Halloween Costumes and Inner Conflict

  1. Coming from someone who is definitely against all horror, fright and gore in the ‘halloween’ scene………I have a basic
    thought about it all.
    Fun is supposed to be kept in the same reflection and symbolism as foundational spirituality is set upon.
    Anti-Christ vs/ Pro Christ.
    The scriptures are very very very clear.
    ANYTHING that is of “light” and lifts one towards Christ / God
    is PRO-Christ.
    ANYTHHING that is of “darkness” and is based on fear, doubt or lies is …..clearly ANTI-Christ.
    We are commanded in the New Testament….DO NOT DOUBT, DO NOT FEAR.
    Halloween could be ALL pro-Christ.
    Shamelessly, it has become, as your article defines so clearly….part ANTI-Christ.
    Whose disciple are we? Who do we honor, EVERY day including holidays? Who do we obey, even when “having fun”?
    Always a choice.
    Always followed by fruits…….
    It’s not too late to be a perfect example, and a living disciple, role model for all the children.
    Speak out saints.
    Speak out caution.
    Speak out for Christ……and dress accordingly.
    Think seriously about this, it is important “sign of the times”
    and WE as LDS CAN step forward….even at Halloween.
    Love to All

  2. While I’m not at all squeamish about Halloween, neither do I hold any illusions about what it is that people are doing.

    The entire thing is a PAGAN holiday adapted by the Catholic Church in order to help converts in those countries where it was celebrated to feel more comfortable with their new religion. (In some cases, the people were ‘forced’ to a new religion, but kept celebrating the old ways in spite of that).

    A holiday where the people dressed up in scary outfits and let go of their inhibitions in order to scare off/appease any vengeful or evil spirits is HARDLY going to end up with a nice non-bloody theme. Carnival in Brazil and Mardi Gras in other places is very similar–it’s a time to indulge.

    Is it compatible with the gospel of Christ? No, unfortunately, I don’t think the original meaning of Halloween is. But it’s still fun.

    As a note, my kids are going as Mario, Luigi, & Toad from Super Mario brothers this year. Fun.

  3. As the parent of two zombies and a vampire, I would like to say that Sharon Mystic LDS in Tennessee scares me.

  4. Sharon Mystic LDS in Tennessee, the form of your post appears to be either a poem or the insane ramblings of a wrinkly witch hunched over a bubbling cauldron. (Please understand that I am merely attempting humor here, and I am NOT accusing you of being a witch. I would never do that without weighing you against a duck.)

    Whatever Halloween’s origins, I have no qualms about celebrating Halloween. I do agree that as Mormons we don’t believe in taking any days off from our standards, so we shouldn’t do things or wear things that don’t meet those standards (e.g. mini-skirts, etc.)

  5. We all get to pick our role model.
    We all get to pick whom we wish to “grow up” like.
    Tiny zombies are not any more cute than adult zombies just because they are innocent wee little ones who are worthy to be in Christ’s presence…..when compared with angels and princesses, even tho it might not be the ‘rage’ of society today to look sweet / loving / pure / friendly.
    When we look at the paintings of what heaven is like….the place where we say we all want to live someday….the place that we are trying to get to by living each day in mortality in a heavenly way. my view does not include the dark side images…..I leave it to everyone to picture their idea of heaven.
    We all our seeking our own comfort level.
    We are free to manifest in fantasy, what our ideal modeling vision is. And to where and what we lead our children.
    I, for one prefer children sucking on lollipops instead of blood.
    The other vision of children as death agents is much more scary to me.
    Yes, it’s a strict and strait way to view things, but are we not more safe to stay very far to the right…on the Lord’s side?
    Where the Holy Ghost can be every moment as companion.
    We have lots of freedom to choose the light, when the choice is placed before us. Should there be an accident on Halloween night, I would rather be caught in an angel costume than a goulish one.
    King Mosiah said that every thought and every action counts.
    I’m far from perfect and far from having the right to advise, but we’ve been asked to share our testimonies on line.
    Therefore, I am impressed to share the same.
    Please, just pray about what would be the best symbol for our children and us to follow. Even one night counts….and could make ALL the difference in a child’s emotions forever.

  6. We can’t take a day off from our standards, but I never dressed up as anything I ever “aspired” to or had secret fantasies about. One year I was a mummy. Did I want to ever be a real mummy? No. One year I was a zombie. Did I ever want to be a zombie? No. Sometimes its just fun to pretend. And that’s what Halloween is about. Don’t take it so seriously.

  7. Good point, Ian (#4). I’ll have to remind a friend of mine about the paganism of Christmas. This particular woman tries to avoid the more unpleasant side of Halloween by dressing up as Mrs. Claus, serving frosted sugar cookies, and decorating the outside of her house with Christmas lights. I thought it was a fairly original way to make Halloween cheery, rather than scary.

    Actually, maybe it’s a great solution: we could combine the paganism of both holidays into one (Halloween) and focus more on Christ at Christmas. Pull out those angel and Santa costumes!

  8. Halloween is a holday that can be what you make it. It can be silly fun, or the representation of all that is evil. I prefer the silly fun, myself. And since I am a lawyer in real life, I find it difficult to come up with a costume that would make people fear or shun me more than they already do. Glenn Beck, maybe?

  9. Frecklefoot (7), I understand that you don’t really want to be a zombie or a mummy. I wouldn’t, either. So you weren’t motivated by that. I’m wondering why you did dress up in those costumes. I know it’s often for mundane reasons: last year I was a 1950s girl because I found a cheap (free) poodle skirt. What was your motivation?

    Well, CS Eric (9), I’d say it really depends on the people you associate with. Trick-or-treating in my city in a Glenn Beck costume would probably raise your lawyer status immeasurably.

    Sharon (1 &6), please excuse my ignorance. I feel like I can’t appropriately respond to your comments because I have no idea what an LDS mystic is, nor what your beliefs are.

  10. I don’t like the blood and gore and skankiness. Oh that it were just teens and adult women who dressed like skanks! I am shocked at the toddler costumes in the Party City ad.

    I love Halloween, but we stick to the fun, uplifting stuff. I get what Sharon is saying.

  11. (And would it be too embarassing to admit that Kylie has me wondering if I would still fit in my high school prom dress after 5 kids? . . . I won’t try this year. 2 months after having a baby is too soon. Maybe next year. Or maybe I’ll try on my cheerleading uniform . . . the skirt is only, what, 6 inches long? Now that’s hot.)

    (Just kidding. Or not. :) )

  12. Dear Kylie…….I added in the ‘mystic’ name because I am
    always learning and expanding beyond “just” the basics with trying to elevate the physical into the “best” it can be.
    The other dimensions are, to me, mystical. Maybe I could have picked a better description? Looks like the root mys belongs to mystery as well and we are told (and it’s true) that we CAN have them unfolded to us..in the proper time, context, purpose, etc. as long as we are ready, willing and worthy. Mysteries are just the unknown…for right now.
    Sacred things are carefully dispensed.
    I love having fun too, everyone….IHave a happy, healthy Fall Festival / Halloween holiday !
    Sure wish I could fit into my prom dress………yikes.

  13. Thanks for the laugh, Stephanie. Two months post-baby? And you think you might fit the dress? I’m impressed. I don’t even try on my regular stretchy clothes for at least that long, and jeans and fitted clothing come back many months after that. My baby is 3. My advice is to wait a year or two.

  14. I appreciate the clarification, Sharon. Dictionary.com provided me these definitions:

    “–adjective 1. involving or characterized by esoteric, otherworldly, or symbolic practices or content, as certain religious ceremonies and art; spiritually significant; ethereal.
    2. of the nature of or pertaining to mysteries known only to the initiated: mystic rites.
    3. of occult character, power, or significance: a mystic formula.
    4. of obscure or mysterious character or significance.
    5. of or pertaining to mystics or mysticism. ”

    So I hope you understand why I was confused. I read your comment as saying that you value Christ, light, and Christian behavior (and costuming), but your use of “mystic” conjured up images of the occult and mystical rites to me–the kinds of things that I’d put on my “scary” list. Well, those things and the crazy sugar-high from all that trick-or-treating candy. I hand out pencils. Boring, I know.

  15. Um, no. I was being funny. I’m still wearing {cough} maternity clothes. (Okay, just put those away a week ago. Now I’m onto my “fat” clothes.) 9 months up and 9 months down is what I always say.

  16. Um, no. I was being funny. I’m still wearing {cough} maternity clothes. (Okay, just put those away a week ago. Now I’m onto my “fat” clothes.) 9 months up and 9 months down is what I always say.

  17. Sometimes having fun is just having fun, there is no deeper meaning. Playing Rock Band with my family doesn’t mean I want to go on stage and play Weezer songs, sleep with groupies, take drugs and whatever else you might associate with being in an actual rock band.

    Dressing up in scary costumes is just that, part of the fun of running from house to house ringing the doorbell, staying out late with friends and family, enjoying the different costumes people are wearing and trying to scare yourself.

    Sometimes there really is nothing to be scared of, and we’re looking for any little thing to worry about just because we feel like we have to.

  18. For those of you who are against Halloween because it’s a pagan holiday, I hope you also know that if you rearrange the letters in Santa, it spells SATAN!

  19. Regarding “trampy” costumes, some costumes are inherently immodest: Tinkerbell, flapper, etc. And some are just a regular old costume turned trampy. When someone dresses up as a “naughty nurse”, it’s pretty easy to figure out that the emphasis is on the “naughty” and an excuse to show some skin.

  20. I am always a Jedi Knight and each of my kids has been a Jedi Padawan as they have reached the age to fit into the costume.

    Sharon reminds me of a lady I remember from a couple years ago who threw each of her children from the window of a hotel here in Salt Lake City in order to ensure their exaltation. I think she might benefit from reading a novel once in awhile and laying off the scriptures and apocalyptic writings for a little bit. I’m just saying, she comes across as a little nuts. Happy Halloween, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Valentines day. Did I miss a any Pagan Holidays? ;)

    Oh, yeah, Happy Labor Day. May the Mystical Mob Boss visit you in the night and leave the chocolate sickles and hammers for all you good labor girls and boys!

  21. This Halloween I’m gonna be a basement blogger: unshaven & uncombed hair, a pillow strapped around my middle underneath a ragged bathrobe over black socks and of course my laptop computer.

    (Doh! wait — that’s not just a costume!)

  22. Looks like I touched a nerve.
    Or two.
    Or was it the reflection in the mirror?
    Designs, colors, and characteristics matter.
    That is why temples, churches, artwork, and more are carefully designed. There is meaning and vibrations and energy generated from all things created. Especially music. All things interact and are acted upon in our world and in the universe.
    We all affect each other, even by a smile. Or a tear. Or a hug.
    When delicate souls of children are involved, it is a responsibility to live the highest intent. I have had contact with in my missionary life those who worship the dark side.
    I have had to fight against the Adversary and his minions.
    Halloween brings to our eyes, ears and emotions much of that horrid evil world in artwork, characterisations, like in the costumes. I was only trying to help make more aware, that there is NO good in making light of anything dark. (to play on words and principles). When any thing is a percentage of good with even a little bad mixed in…..look out.
    It’s all too real to pretend that those things opposite to heaven are fun or pretend.
    My intent was to put a reminder out there that negative vibes come from negative looks. Some people just have not the experience with certain negative powers to understand that even a costume could drag things in the wrong direction.
    That things that remind you of goulish death and suffering really have no place in children’s celebrations…or family ‘fun’ festivals.
    If a ‘look’ doesn’t mean anything, if there was No symbolism
    in anything we do, wear or say…….why the insulting reaction?
    if clothes have no real meaning or the costumes either- or ‘real’ daily dress doesn’t matter, it’s all a mute issue.
    ….it is sad to attack / insult the messenger who has the opinion that costumes could carry a mood or symbol of negativity or scary character?…I was only concerned and caring about those that had not stopped to consider a few more sides of the story.
    I am sorry & sad that one would actually accuse a well meaning grandmother / great grandmother of murder.
    Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
    Nuff said.

  23. I think it’s okay for kids to dress up a couple of times and play games, eat lots of junk, have fun parties, etc. Our elementary school does a parade of kids in costume that a lot of people turn out for. I completely detest the onslaught of horror movies and the licensed costumes from them.

    I like that phrase “We can’t take a day off from our standards.” Someone should start an online photo album to show creative and appropriate costumes that members wear. There’s so much more than skanky everything.

  24. If you really want to scare someone, do what a friend of mine did. He wore his suit with an ID tag identifying him as a “Bishop”; he would then issue “callings” to people who came to his front door to “trick-or-treat”. Very scary!

  25. Utahns love Halloween, as a general rule. I only knew one family who didn’t participate as a kid and I’ve never scene such decorations anywhere else. But when I moved to Florida and was in one homeschool support group that was evangelical Christian, I heard my first serious complaints about the holiday.

    As someone who consciously chooses to celebrate Halloween and really enjoys it, I still think that it won’t hurt LDS folks to think a bit more deeply about what we are doing, what we are encouraging, etc. Of course it means something. To label something as merely “fun” and therefore, somehow, meaningless, is disingenuous. We might not come to the same conclusions as many of our Christian neighbors, but actually considering that we might be doing something inappropriate isn’t such a bad thing. And while we might not come to the same conclusions that Sharon has, the ad hominem toward her is hardly warranted.

    For the record, I’m not into the gore aspect of Halloween, but I am into spooky and scary. This year I have two Links, a fairy (not a skanky fairy, thank you), a hippie, a gypsy, and (probably) a pirate. Not all to be emulated, to be sure.

    As with Kylie, the skank level of Halloween is bizarre. My fourth daughter is currently playing a teen vampire in a local community theater troop. We had to get her fitted for some custom fangs and went to a Halloween shop. I’d say that the female teen/adult costumes are about 95% geared toward street walking. Apparently every occupation and position is really just about skank. Skanky alien. Skanky viking. Skanky princess Skanky nurse. Skanky pirate. Skanky sailor. Skanky fairy. Skanky Snow White. Skanky bumble bee. Skanky ghostbuster (?). Skanky ladybug. Skanky cat. Skanky cowgirl. Skanky referee. (All true.) There’s a very special native american costume called “Pocahottie.” Yea!

    Probably not “of good report or praiseworthy.”

    Last in this rambling mess, I think the idea of having a holiday called “Harvest Festival” or “Heroes Day” — that just HAPPENS to be on October 31 and consists of dressing up in costume, getting lots of goodies, apple cider and donuts is pretty lame. If you don’t like it, don’t celebrate it. But don’t pretend that renaming it is NOT celebrating it.

  26. If you don’t like it, don’t celebrate it. But don’t pretend that renaming it is NOT celebrating it.


  27. Troy (26) and Santa Hans (28)–thanks for the full-fledged gut laugh. You made my day.

    Alison (29), I appreciate your wider perspective on girls’ and women’s costumes. I was seeing this as a personal choice, but I agree with you about there being a larger societal/cultural issue going on here, as well. Girls and women are often pushed to be sexualized no matter what they wear/are for Halloween. Either that or be angelic and sweet. I thought we were moving past some of these stereotypes, but apparently not in Halloween costuming.

  28. Stephanie,
    I’m not sure I get the inherent immodesty of Tinkerbell. Her language is vulgar, and she’s far from a great role model, but I’m not sure that Barrie ever described her as immodest (although apparently she had a negligée in her boudoir). But even if you base it on Disney’s Tinkerbell, who has lost the language and the evil side of her nature, my daughter’s Tinkerbell costume is completely unsexual (as it should be, given that my daughter is one—sexualizing a toddler is about the worst parenting decision that I can think of). (And why Tinkerbell? Because my older daughter is obsessed with Peter Pan, and dictated each of our costumes.)

  29. Oh, Sam B, I just meant that she (the Disney Tinkerbell) is sleeveless with a short skirt – not trampy, but immodest according to our LDS standards. I have a fondness for Tinkerbell (long story) and already have a costume for my daughter to wear next year when she is 1. I, too, am not trying to sexualize my toddler, but I do recognize that I’ll be setting aside my usual standards for her dress that night.

  30. I’m really uncomfortable with the gore and the obsession with dark thinks like murder and killers. If I’m going to have skeletons I’d rather they be the happy/fun kind a la Mexican Day of the Dead stuff. I’m also uncomfortable with the societal trend toward “sexy” costumes (Google “sexy Finding Nemo” if you want to see the truly ridiculous). Besides the ‘sexy’ trend I feel kind of sad that even costumes for little girls tend towards princess or fairy. There seems to be a lack of creativity out there, but I think it just reflects the fact that 90 percent of toys/television/clothes for little girls are all princess-themed.

    That being said, my six-year-old is a ‘fairy princess’ this year; we held out for a long time and in the past she has been Supergirl twice and a cat once, but this year we’re lazy and it was easier to buy a pair of wings at Target and call it good. At least she’s not a ‘sexy fairy’.

  31. Same thing would go for a ballerina costume or a host of other costumes that are just “immodest” because it’s the nature of the costume. It would look weird if you try to make it modest (add sleeves or put a shirt under or long pants under or something). I’m okay with my daughter wearing one of those costumes, but I wouldn’t be okay with the great majority of costumes at Party City that are an excuse to dress trampy.

  32. I think that we should teach and expect temple-standard modesty of our kids from the beginning. I don’t agree with the dress how you want until the time comes philosophy. People will find an excuse to be immodest if they feel restricted by such standards. I frequently see topless guys and scantily-clad girls doing their jogging around the Y, and I don’t think it’s for performance-enhancing reasons (if that’s even an exception).

    I think we can enjoy the spooky stuff of Halloween in moderation, but I agree that horror movies, gore, and darker things are not appropriate.

  33. FoxyJ’s right, princesses are decidedly not the best role models. Sure, on princess-and-queen-consort-to-be Alexandra’s arrival in England from Denmark in the 1890s, Tennyson wrote—A Welcome to Alexandra

    Sea King’s daughter from over the sea,

    Alexandra! / Saxon and Norman and Dane are we,
    But all of us Danes in our welcome of thee, / Alexandra!

    (There’s a pic of Alexandra here — on the far right): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandra_of_Denmark#Princess_of_Wales. (And check out England’s next crown princess and queen consort, Mary, shown here): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_of_teck#Engagements . …In any case, what would submit to my dear readers is, what is unfortunate about the mode of dress, of such women of privilege as these of the period, is not bared shoulders. It is “tight lacing”! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corset_controversy

  34. I attended a ward yesterday that announced their upcoming Halloween activity in the bulletin. They specifically requested no “immodesty, violence or gore” in costuming.

    So I see what is immodest or gory. Any other ideas for modest, non-violent, age-appropriate FUN costumes (and not too expensive)?

  35. Troy – I’m sooooo glad you posted that link.

    I love Halloween, but I agree with the issues on Modesty. When I was single, A few other sisters and I discussed what we were going to be for halloween. The answers: “A Witch, a nurse, a vampire, a pirate.” I had no problem with any of the costumes. That year, I was going as a robot. (which was a super-rad-homemade costume complete with a light-up switchboard…).
    Anyways, I was disappointed to find that each of the girls I had talked to should have used a prefix of “trampy” for each of their costumes. And I understood the temptation – they got A LOT of attention from the guys that night. I (not so subtly) reminded everyone, “modest is hottest.”

    I think that we can have fun – even when we’re fully clothed.

  36. re: #38: Sure, on princess-and-queen-consort-to-be Alexandra’s arrival in England from Denmark in the 1890s, Tennyson wrote—A Welcome to Alexandra

    I think you’re nearly 30 years off. Princess Alexandra of Denmark wed the Prince of Wales on March 10, 1863 and Tennyson’s poem on her arrival in England is dated March 7, 1863.

  37. As someone who is “an eighth” Danish — not including what percentage of my British-Isles heritage is, in reality, “Norse” or “Dane” — that 30-year slip up is embarrassing!

  38. Actually, Tennyson’s poem reminded me of a more modern sea chanty:

    Who lives in a pinneapple under the sea?
    (Spongebob! Squarepants!)
    Absobant and yellow and pourous is he?
    (Spongebob! Squarepants!)
    Who’s nautical nonsense be something you wish?
    (Spongebob! Squarepants!)
    So drop on the deck snd flop like a fish!
    (Spongebob! Squarepants!)
    (Spongebob! Squarepants!)
    (Spongebob! Squarepants!)
    (Spongebob! Squarepants!)
    (Spongebob…… Squarepants!)

  39. Well, at our ward party this past Saturday, we had the primary presidency and music leaders dressed up as a roller derby team [name: The Holy Rollers] , complete with names on the backs of their jerseys (matching t-shirts bought at a local sporting goods store) and the husbands dressed up as either the team manager, a fan or somebody else with a connection to the team or sport. My wife and I went as Bele and Lokai (ST:TOS- “Let that be your Last Battlefield”). 8 dollars for gray shirts and pants at DI and used her stage makeup to get the black and white halves.)
    The only gore that we had was one of the HPG assistants and his wife. They have a granddaughter who dances with a local theater production of Thriller and she made them up as zombies. white base make-up and splotches of blood/ slashed skin on their faces. Definitely not over the top from what I have seen at other parties or just at work near halloween.

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