Take Back Halloween is a website I've admired for a long time. The site, created by Suzanne Scoggins, a writer and women's history specialist, in 2011, aims to provide girls and women with a range of creative, do-it-yourself costume ideas.
The site offers costume ideas in four categories: Glamour Girls, Goddesses and Legends, Notable Women, and Queens, encouraging girls and women to “celebrate your heritage,” “explore the female divine,” and “honor your personal heroine” without going into the realms of ethnic stereotypes and oversexualization.
“You go into a party store and the only astronaut costume is in the male sections in large sizes. If a girl wants to be Sally Ride, the message is she can’t. If there’s a girl costume, it’s an orange tube dress that looks like a Hooters waitress…or a sexy policewoman or sexy firefighter. The message we’re giving our daughters and sons is incredible,” said Scoggins in a 2013 interview with Today.com
I was so inspired by Take Back Halloween that this year, I wanted to create a Demeter costume based on the costume on the site. Though it was far too cold this year to sit in front of my home in a sheet to hand out Halloween candy, I still remain very inspired by the breadth of amazing costume ideas on the site.
This year I wore my Bronzino Gown again, and decided to submit my costume to Take Back Halloween's annual costume contest as Vittoria Colonna, an Italian Renaissance noblewoman and poet. I was absolutely floored by all of the amazing entries this year and felt honored just to be among such a group of creative and talented women.
I was absolutely ecstatic to learn that I was named one of the winners in the Take Back Halloween 2014 Costume Contest, earning a Special Achievement award for Outstanding Artistry, Notable Woman Category! I am beyond honored to not only be listed as a winner among so many impressive entries, but also to be a part of such a great movement.
Earlier this year, I wrote an article for The Pioneer Times, the William Paterson University Communication Department-sponsored student-run newspaper, about Take Back Halloween and the sexy Halloween costume takeover. Below is an excerpt of my article, with more information on Take Back Halloween and the Halloween costume industry:
“It’s about bringing fun and diversity back into Halloween,” said Scoggins in a 2013 interview with Today.com. “Sexy costumes for women went from being an option to a requirement.”
The Halloween industry is larger than we may realize. The National Retail Federation predicts that this Halloween, more than two-thirds of Americans will be buying Halloween costumes.
Though many women’s costumes aren’t specifically labeled “sexy” or “sassy,” the miniskirts, body-hugging fabrics and cleavage-bearing cuts say otherwise. Spirit Halloween even sells a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles corset and matching panty.“There’s nothing wrong with sexy (for adults), and if you want to go that route, fine,” said Scoggins. “I just want a full range of options.”
The scary part is that sexy Halloween costumes have turned into a polyester arms race, with a greater number of oversexualized costumes apearing each year and increasingly in the teen and girl categories.
Of BuyCostumes.com’s selection of teen costumes, nearly 30 % had hemlines that barely covered the buttcheek. Not to worry, the rest only barely covered the thighs. And consider that costumes that were once unisex now offer a bodycon version, such as Crayola’s classic crayons.
This is exactly what Take Back Halloween! is fighting with nearly 100 costume ideas, including women you may have learned about in school like Ada Lovelace, Persephone and Queen Victoria and icons like Diana Ross and Grace Kelly.
The site also features lesser known history makers: Liliuokalani (the last queen of Hawaii), Wu Zetian (the only woman to rule as Empress of China), Mama Quilla (the Inca goddess of the moon), Enheduanna (the earliest known author in human history), and Asase Yaa (the earth goddess of the Ghanan Asante people).
Each costume page includes illustrations or period artwork portraying a woman, a brief biography and list of her accomplishments, and instructions for creating the costume. The costumes, which cater to women of all shapes and sizes, involve no sewing to put together and only the occasional double-sided tape or safety pins.In our over-sexualized society, a resource like Take Back Halloween is critical to show young men and women that women are more than sexual objects. It is also refreshing to see costumes that differ from the thousands of identical polyester gypsies, Disney princesses, witches, and pop culture icons that roam the streets on Halloween.