I found something disturbing in The 99p Store last week. It isn't a radical statement, being a place that you can buy industrial-sized jars of pickled eggs for pocket change, but this was on a new level of consumer bafflement. It was a pair of tights, in the kids' Halloween section, with "bitch" emblazoned down the leg. Bitch. The KIDS section.
But while demonising our infants is a new worry to add to the Halloween list (we've been sending them out to beg sweets from strangers for ages, after all), it foreshadows the phenomenon adult humans face every year. I like to call it Slutty Halloween.
I think we were all vaguely aware of it gathering speed over the last decade, but it wasn't until 2004's Mean Girls put it into words that Slutty Halloween truly became a 'thing'.
"In Girl World," explained Cady, "Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it."
In other words, somewhere between the Thriller video and Kitty Brucknell humping that dartboard on X Factor at the weekend, Halloween became the get-out-of-slutty-free card - a chance for nice, normal girls with a tasteful line in Uniqlo cardigans to crank their assets up to their chin and embrace their slaggy alter egos for a night.
And what's wrong with that, really? Fancy dress has always been a chance for escapism - be it as a teary five-year-old inkeeper, or a hobbit in live action roleplay in a wood somewhere in Norfolk. If your heart's desire is to spend the night as a lascivious incarnation of Little Bo Peep, then by all means go for it. But watch where you put that crook, you'll have someone's eye out.
The problem, you see, isn't so much that Halloween offers the chance to dress slutty, but that recently it seems to have become the only option. It started small enough, with sexy she-devils, minxy vampires and the 'underwear with arbitrary animal ears' get-up so well illustrated in Mean Girls. But then (probably as all the fancy dress shops started selling out of red PVC), it spread. And lo, we were forced to sluttify every costume we could, just to keep up. Nuns, literary characters, historical figures - all now have to come with a side of knee-socks and pouting.
Dressing as the Honey Monster? Ah, but how can you make it SEXY Honey Monster? Add a pair of hotpants to your furry mask, there's a good girl. That's it, get your sugar puffs out...etc.
These days it's a brave move to pick a frumpy costume. For let's remember, after the office party and New Year's Eve, Halloween is one of the key pulling occasions of the year. And who's more likely to get some - the gung-ho lass in the historically-accurate Joan of Arc outfit, or the one dressed as a wayward Minnie Mouse?
Having sported my fair share of 'generic busty wench' outfits myself, I can sympathise with that. I can. But while we're sticking sequins onto our nethers with eyelash glue, are the men backcombing their chest hair and winching themselves into 'Sexy Jeremy Paxman' outfits? No. They're wearing a giant sleepysuit and looking darned comfy with it.
It's a part of the much wider question, continually plaguing us womenfolk - why can't we just wear normal clothes? Proper, functioning clothes, that cover us adequately and don't garrotte us in intimate areas. For the modern woman, day-to-day life can sometimes feel like a feeble battle against the landslide of booty-bearing, quasi-stripper expectations gradually falling in on our heads. Halloween is the epicentre of this. In Railway Children terms, it's when we'd be ripping up our red flannel petticoats and waving them frantically in front of the train. The Ladyflesh Express. Final destination: Nakedsville.
Also, Slutty Halloween encourages laziness. A basque and a bowtie do not a costume maketh. Buying a pre-prepared 'raunchy traffic warden' outfit off the internet is a cop out. I like to see a fancy dress that blood, sweat and a few dedicated charity shop dashes have gone into, ta. If you've not cut up a bedsheet and permanently stained a few towels, you've frankly not tried hard enough.
And aside from all its implications of feminist doom, there's a very practical reason for forgoing Slutty Halloween: it's cold.
Halloween, we must remember, is at the end of October. And all the body glitter in the world isn't going to keep the chill out when you're at Old Street bus stop at 3am in your scanties, now, is it ladies?
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