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Halloween Costumes: Appropriate or Appropriation?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Richmond chapter.

Halloween is one of the most anticipated holidays across college campuses. Who doesn’t love getting dressed up, going to parties and taking some of the funniest most memorable pictures with your friends? Halloweekend is a chance to show off your cutest, funniest or scariest costume making ideas while having a good time with your friends.


But what about the people whose race, culture and customs are appropriated year after year as college students create or buy costumes without doing research into what they really mean? While everyone has the right to expression through what they wear, this does not give people the right to wear something offensive, whether it is out of ignorance or on purpose.  


According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, cultural appropriation is the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture. If your Halloween costume involves taking things from another culture in a way that doesn’t show that you’re either educated on or appreciative of that culture, then it’s probably appropriation. If you’re confused on where this line is drawn, here are a few do’s and don’ts:


Do feel free to dress up a person or character whom you like, even if they are not the same race as you.


Don’t use makeup, paints, or anything else to try to change the color of your skin to look more like the person you are dressing up as.


Do experiment with different colors, prints or articles of clothing that you may not usually wear. Go for the high heels or colorful leggings during Halloweekend!


Don’t wear an item that is specific to another culture and has a cultural significance that you cannot identify with. This can include things like hijabs, kimonos, headwraps and headdresses. If you know it has significant meaning in a culture that is not your own, you probably shouldn’t be wearing it, especially if you cannot really explain what that meaning is.


Do feel free to break the gender binary and wear whatever makes you feel the most comfortable.


Don’t make someone else’s gender identity or sexual orientation a joke through your costume. It’s 2017. Homophobic transphobic or any other kind of costume that falls along those lines will never be in style, nor will it ever be funny.


Halloween is a really fun time in college. Make the most out of this crazy weekend Collegiettes but please, let what you wear be appropriate and not appropriation!