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Halloween Costumes for Kids: Killer Clowns and Sexy Raggedy Anns. What Gives?

Posted by Elisabeth Wilkins

What is up with kids’ Halloween costumes? I mean really,  What. Is. Up? Recently, Walmart had to pull this “naughty leopard” costume — for toddlers — from their shelves after there was an uproar from customers. And they’re not the only ones who are selling things to kids that are either over-sexualized, creepy, violent, scary or just plain weird.

For the past few years, my 10-year-old son has asked to be a clown. Not a happy clown, but a freaky serial killer-looking clown with a chain saw. What the heck??

Needless to say, the answer has been “no” to the clown idea every year. And I wonder, where did he come up with that, even? We don’t watch horror movies in our house — neither my husband or I has the stomach for them. In my case, I haven’t liked them since a random babysitter let me watch The Exorcist (!?) when I was five after which I proceeded to wet the bed. (Still can’t watch that movie to this day. I know it’s split pea soup coming out of Linda Blair’s mouth, but it still freaks me out!)

And I really don’t get the whole “sexy” trend for costumes for young girls. I don’t understand why companies are marketing costumes like this to kids. On a recent trip to our local pop-up Halloween store, I saw sexy Raggedy Ann, Cinderella, and Barbie doll costumes — all made for kids and tweens. (By sexy , I mean short skirts, low cut tops, and push up “bras.”) I mean, does Raggedy Ann need to be sexualized — really? Isn’t the whole point that she’s a sweet doll? Don’t we want our children to have time before puberty and adulthood where they get to be kids and just have fun?

This isn’t limited to the younger set. I think there’s also too much pressure on teen girls to look and act sexy these days, too. (Apparently, one of the hottest costumes this year is Miley Cyrus’s look from the VMAs. Lord help us.)

But back to my 10-year-old son’s Halloween costume.

“Please Mom, why can’t I be a clown? They’re awesome,” he said, picking up a bloody hatchet and scary Heath Ledger-style “Joker” mask off the shelf at the Halloween store, making me shudder involuntarily.

The truth is, I’m seriously afraid of clowns. Like, phobia afraid. They just freak me out; always have. (And apparently, I’m not alone.) Could be because I grew up outside of Chicago, home of “Killer Clown” John Wayne Gacy.. Maybe it’s that we now live in Maine, birthplace of Stephen King, and the setting of most of his books. Could be the creepy, funhouse faces of clowns, and the distinct feeling I had as a kid that under all that make-up, they are not that happy and maybe don’t even like kids. (What can I say? I’m a writer. I make up stories in my head as I go along.)

Finally, my husband took our son shopping and they came to a compromise. He’s going to be a “nice” clown this year.

“Creepy clowns take the fun out of clowns,” our son said, and I have to admit he’s right.

I’m still afraid, but this is a compromise I can deal with. I’m going to work through my phobia, just like I worked through my fear of snakes this year. (But that is fodder for another blog post.)

And as far as costumes for kids are concerned, next year we’re making our own!

What do you think? Have Halloween costumes for kids gone too far?


About Elisabeth Wilkins

Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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