Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality 

Daddy's Little Tramp

By David G. Young

Washington DC, October 30, 2007 --  

Halloween has become a showcase of women's sex outfits, and a case study in excessively indulgent parenting.

My face must have turned slightly red when making a pre-Halloween visit to the Capitol Hill Costume Shop. Walls of merchandise that once featured cartoon character outfits and fake wigs were now filled with fishnet stockings, skimpy French maid costumes, and all kinds of sex suits of the variety more typical of a catalog delivered in a brown paper wrapper.

Did the Costume Shop get replaced with an adult novelty store?

Well, not formally anyway. The wigs and scary masks are still there, tucked in the back behind the hotter-selling sexy Halloween costumes. Encouraging women to publicly dress up in outfits once only appropriate for the bedroom is a huge trend in Halloween marketing.

To the delight of dirty old men everywhere, plenty of young women seem happy to oblige. This was abundantly evident at several Washington DC pubs and a grown-up-oriented Halloween party I visited over the weekend. Skimpy Supergirls, sexy lady cops and French maids were all in great abundance. Far be it from me to complain about getting a free show, but I had to ask myself more than once, "Don't these girls have any self-respect?" I mean, it's no surprise when one or two easy women dress up like extras in a rap video, but when you see half a room filled with them (in multiple venues), then it's pretty clear that things have gone off the deep end.

I'll be the first to admit that there's a dose of Andy Rooney-style "back in my day" jealousy to my viewpoint. I was unfortunate enough to come of age in the late 1980s, when baggy styles yielded the dowdiest female fashion era in the past 40 years. Instead of the miniskirt and bare midriff typical of the past decade, coeds in my day sported oversized XL Hard Rock Caf? sweatshirts and loose-fiting acid washed jeans. How unfair!

But any dimension of sour grapes in this viewpoint is easily eclipsed by righteous outrage at the trend's impact on younger girls. I vividly remember walking down the boardwalk at Delaware's Rehoboth Beach one recent summer, when I noticed a pre-pubescent girl, maybe 12, wearing tight short-shorts emblazoned with "bootylicious" across the back. While teenagers have long been sneaking out to change into clothes forbidden by their parents, this was no such case. The girl was strolling beside her father.

Though I'm not a parent, I wanted to grab the dad by the collar and shout, "What are you thinking?!" How can a father stand idly by as his young daughter parades about in such overtly sexualized attire? Apparently, however, this was not an isolated incident. For the past few Halloween seasons, racy female costumes have not just been sold to adult women -- they have been hot sellers in child sizes, too.1 Obviously, lots of parents are giving the thumbs-up to their daughters' selection of trampy outfits. Maybe the young women prancing about in public in the adult sized versions were taught to wear them by their unbelievably indulgent and irresponsible fathers.

Without a doubt, there is no acute crisis here. I'm sure there are plenty of nice young women who like to get a little attention by going out dressed as a "bad girl" one time each year. No harm done.

But on the pre-teen and adolescent side of the trend, this is clearly a symptom of a culture dominated by overly-indulgent parenting. America's mothers and fathers need to step up and put the smack down on their kids. A costume is just a costume. But the consequences of generally over-indulging your kids are potentially serious and far-reaching.


1. Washington Post, Preteens Trading Fairy Wands for Fishnets, October 30, 2007