Cleavage, Fangs and Bearded Ladies: The Psychology of Halloween Costumes


Just one of the many Halloweens I've looked more masculine than my husband.

Every Halloween my husband, Brian, hopes my costume will be like many other women’s costumes– too shamelessly tight, short, and boob-alicious for any other day of the year.

But every Halloween I want to be a man. Preferably one with facial hair.

The dream costumes I have yet to try are Abraham Lincoln, a male Viking, and the white-haired dude on the Quaker Oats box.

Brian doesn’t like any of these ideas. He wants me to try a sexy costume for once, or at the very least, a costume that does NOT involve him being married to the only bearded lady at any given Halloween party we attend. But sexy is not who I am, and it’s not (usually) how I want to feel.

One day I apologized for my love of fake facial hair. He answered, “Don’t apologize. Your sense of humor is part of what I love about you.”

“But I’m not trying to be funny, I just really like Abe Lincoln,” I said.

He laughed. Then he hugged me because I asked why he was laughing, and he thinks I’m cute when I don’t realize I’m being funny.

What Your Costume Says About You

On Halloween we play out our fantasies without fear of being judged. We can escape the confines of our gender, status, or natural personality. We can flip off our inhibitions. We can be free.

And what I find most interesting about this is who or what we choose to be when given this freedom. Sure, costumes are just for fun, but what you consider to be ”fun” says a lot about you. It communicates what kind of self-perception and social attention you desire. Do you want feel unique and controversial? Do you want to feel beautiful? Do you want to be the funny one? Do you want everyone to know that you are a total bad ass werewolf in denim cut-off shorts? (Because in the movies, humans who transform into werewolves always conveniently maintain the crotch part of their pants. Which is a shame, really, because aren’t you totally curious about what werewolf crotch looks like?)

I’m still trying to figure out what my love of facial hair and historical male figures means about me. I’m open to your ideas.

Who knows, maybe I’ll grow out of my facial hair phase. Maybe one day I’ll be a frumpy, overwhelmed working mom (honestly, I’ve already got the frumpy down, and I don’t even have a mini van full of kids to blame), dying to put on a skimpy cat costume that makes me feel beautiful.

But when that day comes, when I feel myself developing a new need, I hope I’ll be able to meet it in a healthy, long-term, satisfying, deep way. Sure, it may be remedied with one night in a sexy cat costume. Done. Easy. But if the issue is deeper than that, I hope I’m brave enough to address it– and preferably without skin-tight black latex pants and a tail pinned to my ass.

Your Turn: What do your Halloween costumes say about you?

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4 Responses to Cleavage, Fangs and Bearded Ladies: The Psychology of Halloween Costumes

  1. Allie says:

    I’m sad that we don’t have Halloween here. My one comment would be that if you want to buy a really [email protected] costume (i.e. professionally made rather than from Goodwill, etc.) as a woman the pickings are pretty slim for anything that hasn’t been made “sexy.”

    We had a giant pirate party at home a few years ago (for Labor Day, because why not dress like a pirate in your backyard with a crapload of friends also dressed as pirates on Labor Day?) and while I do love the costume I ultimately got, it was hard to find something with that much fabric (and even then it was super short) that was slightly feminine. I don’t understand why only boys get to be fun adventurer / [email protected] characters. I think I should still be able to be recognizably a girl AND awesomely [email protected]…!

    • Kimberly says:

      I didn’t realize you don’t do Halloween over on your side of the Atlantic. Backyard pirate parties sound fun though! Did all your guests play along?

      I have a few friends whose Halloween costumes are always sexy, but then again, their everyday style is too, so I get it. But what about the rest of us? I’d like to see more options that don’t involve me showing my midriff, please!

  2. Sheryl says:

    I’m not a huge Halloween costume fan. Which kind of makes me sad because there are some awesome costumes out there that I might hypothetically be interested in trying, but I just never bring myself to do it. I’d like to think it says that I’m not willing to put all sorts of efforts into pretending to be someone else, but I think it just mostly says I’m lazy and sometimes boring.

    • Kimberly says:

      I was just talking to a friend who pointed out that no matter if you’re 10 years old or 40, you’re either born a Halloween (or costume) fan or not. In Philadelphia they have something called the Mummers, which refers to men who dress up crazy and act like drunken frat boys on New Year’s Day. I’m not into it (maybe because one of them stopped me on the street, grabbed my face, slipped me some tongue…and then did the same thing to my husband!). So I guess we’re all drawn to different wacky traditions.

      What kinds of costumes are you hypothetically interested in trying?

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