Style + Beauty

From Scary to Scandalous: Why 'Naughty' Halloween Costumes Are Everywhere



By now, people have already begun searching online or in stores for the perfect Halloween costume. While people have the option to stay traditional and dress up as a classic werewolf or pirate, many adults and their children may opt out and choose a costume that's a bit more inappropriate or scandalous.

According to the National Retail Federation, $2.6 billion is spent on Halloween costumes alone, while total Halloween spending for 2013 is expected to reach $6.9 billion (including things like candy and decorations.) In other words, it's quite a popular holiday, thanks in large part to costume-seeking consumers and the retailers who cater to them.

But what exactly are the retailers offering?

Recently, Wal-Mart was under fire for selling a "Naughty Leopard" costume aimed towards toddlers. They removed the item from the store shelves amid backlash, but continued to sell the product online with a revised name change (Leopard Child Halloween Costume) until they eventually removed it altogether.

Dr. Keith Ablow, psychiatrist and Fox News contributor, believes that companies should not get a free pass ethically just because consumers will buy the product. "Participating in something that's obviously undesirable for kids leaves you with all the ethical follows," he says. "So the retailers that are selling costumes for seven-year-olds that mimic being a sex object really should be in line for the kind of things that involve boycotts, and [they should] be put on notice that we don’t want you."

But Wal-Mart is not alone. Incharacter, a San Diego based company, pulled their "Sassy Squaw" costume off the shelves last year after it sparked outrage among the Native American community.

If you search the top Halloween costumes for this year, you'll come across some interesting results. According to, the top three Google searches for Halloween costumes were the minions from "Despicable Me," Miley Cyrus' VMA performance attire, and the characters from "Breaking Bad." However, the National Retail Federation sites that the top three Halloween costumes for adults and children this year are more traditional: to be specific, a witch, a superhero and a vampire. So if the top overall sales are generated from traditional costumes, then why are “naughty” and “sassy” costumes still being manufactured and sold?

Bruce Turkel, the executive creative director of Turkel Brands, believes it’s safe to assume that this is indeed where the money is. “That’s one thing that doesn’t seem to change very much in marketing or business,” he says. “What you’re seeing in the windows of costume stores is simply a reflection of what’s going on in the greater society as a whole. Costumes have always been a window to the zeitgeist of what people care about and how they wish to identify themselves. Traditions such as Halloween simply give people an excuse to be who they really want to be.”

But whether you’re buying an inappropriate outfit for yourself or your children, companies know that sex sells — and they're going to continue to distribute products that cater to consumers who want them.

“Young people, in droves, are looking for something to anchor themselves to that feels real,” Dr. Keith Ablow states. “So rather than imitating monsters or being animated characters in cartoons, they’re going with sex as an antidote [for] these feelings of unreality.”

So, the only question left is this: Who do you plan on dressing up as this year?