4 Tips To Avoid an Offensive Costume This Halloween

You’ve got your candy corn ready, you’ve already planned your Halloween movie marathon and now you’re ready to start costume planning. But, the first rule to an awesome costume is to make sure you’re not offending anyone you may pass while trick-or-treating or party hopping. With costume websites selling costumes like “Mexican Mistress,” “Sexy Indian Girl” and “Hawaiian Goddess”, it may seem as though these costumes are OK to sport. However, the nature of those costumes is disrespectful to the cultures they are imitating. Skip the controversy and educate yourself about what to avoid this Halloween with these tips.

1. Do your research before you buy

You may think that gluing a few feathers to a headband and wearing a fringed dress seems like the “perfect” Native American costume, however, it’s actually everything but that. Not only would you be perpetuating a stereotype, the Native American population is not there for you to mimic for your Halloween costume.

Alani Vargas, a junior at Northwestern University, puts it simply: “Basically if the type clothing was ever meant for something specific in a culture or from another culture, especially a minority one, it's a no-go.”

Instead of trying to play dress up with another culture’s traditions, appreciate them from afar. You may think it’s cute to throw on a kimono and put chopsticks in your hair so you can sport a “Geisha girl” look, but geishas are Japanese entertainers and have had a strong history in Japan. Their makeup and dress is a part of a tradition in their country and shouldn’t be up for grabs at the Halloween store.

2. Don’t make yourself another “color”

Unless you’re dressing up as an Oompa Loompa or a Smurf, you shouldn’t try to use Halloween makeup to dress up as another race.

In the 1800s, white actors would paint their faces black and “play” African-Americans in shows and eventually on television. These minstrel shows portrayed stereotypes about the African-American community. The shows were highly offensive and are still marked as one of the biggest examples of cultural appropriation to date.

You may not have the same skin color as Beyoncé, but she has enough iconic outfits for you to DIY that people will instantly figure out your costume.

“If you have to participate in cultural appropriation or blackface to portray a certain character or person, you need to be more creative,” says Gloria Kimbulu, a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

With costumes like gumball machines, kegs and eggs and various Ninja Turtles, do you really need to offend another race to nail the Halloween game? No, you don’t.

3. Do make fun of yourself

A zombie college student, a box of wine or a basic “witch” complete with leggings and a Starbucks cup are all costume ideas that make fun things in your life without offending anyone.

Juli Cehula, a sophomore at Saint Vincent College, says, “Stick to your own culture, no one can make fun of you for being you! Plus, laughing at yourself is the most grown-up humor there is.”

Are you constantly showing up to parties in sweatpants? Then laugh it up by adding vampire fangs and some fake blood. Do you find yourself constantly drinking the same bottom-shelf vodka? Dress up as the bottle, tease your hair so it looks messy and give yourself “last night’s makeup” to make it look like you’re hungover.

Related: What Halloween is Like in College

4. Don’t make fun of anyone’s gender identity or sexual orientation

There was a major backlash when Halloween costume websites started selling a Caitlyn Jenner costume based off of her Vanity Fair costume, which was modeled by a man.

“[The LGBTQ+ community] has fought so hard to get where they are today and dressing up as stereotypes of lesbian women or gay men only makes you look ignorant and lets it seem like it’s still okay to push them away from society and it’s not,” says Abby Devore, a senior at Temple University.

Reinforcing stereotypes about the LGBTQ+ community only contributes to the oppression of this community and the people who identify with it.

An easy, overpriced Halloween store costume may seem like the quick fix to your Halloween costume problem, but when it uses somebody else’s race, religion, sexuality or ethnicity as a pun or “joke,” it’s not a good costume. Get fun and creative with your next Halloween outfit and think outside of the box. You may just win “Best Costume” if you avoid the run-of-the-mill ideas.