The first Sex and the City movie made a point about Halloween that haunted me (pun intended) as I put on my costume last night: the choices for women on All Hallow’s Eve are essentially ‘witch’ or ‘sexy kitten’. As much as I do not want Miranda Hobbes to have any influence over any of my fashion choices (she must have fallen out with the wardrobe department, surely) I did not opt for a comedic costume.
My favourite ever fancy dress costume was for a 1990s themed party and involved blue jeans, a black t-shirt, Converse, and pairing up with my blonde friend Sam to become Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World – which is decidedly neither scary nor sexy. Sure, we had to stand next to each other all night and couldn’t wear a great deal of makeup, but it was worth it for feeling so much cooler than various scantily clad girl-band replicas. The point of the costume was nothing to do with sex appeal; merely a nod to a cult film (and the fact that we had really suitable hairstyles). Sex was so far removed from the equation that when a guy in the club told me I looked pretty I laughed like, well, a drunken girl dressed as a man being hit on by a straight guy. In my confused vodka blur I thought he was either joking or incredibly short sighted. Mike Myers is brilliant but I wouldn’t call him pretty.
An absence of sex appeal is an almost impossible act of bravery on the 31st of October though. Halloween is a bizarre night where girls are expected to dress in such a way that will please both your average heterosexual man as well as anyone with a thing for necrophilia. The festival mixes Eros and Thanatos with alcohol, sits back, and waits for disaster. Skeletons in short skirts, zombies with underwear on show, and the unavoidable cats in tight dresses rule the darkest night of the year. More humorous costumes are quite literally pushed aside – this year a girl dressed as a dinosaur by means of an ingenious use of cardboard boxes was shuffled, nudged, and prodded into a corner of the dance floor where her tail could inflict the least damage on her less covered up companions. A large proportion of British women have seen Dirty Dancing and none of us want to be put in a corner. So last night, Sam and I (as well as our lovely friend Lucy) once more nodded to cinema with our costumes, but avoided comedy, cross dressing, and (thankfully) cardboard boxes. Last night, we were Sucker Punch.
Whether you loved the film, hated it, or have only a very vague memory of the trailers, it is doubtful that you failed to notice the costumes. Set in three different realities (or fantasies) of a gothic insane asylum, burlesque brothel, and steampunk warzone, the main character – Babydoll – is dolled up in the way you would imagine Britney Spears (circa Hit Me Baby One More Time) would dress if she joined the navy, and her four companions – Sweat Pea, Rocket, Blondie and Amber – spend a good portion of the film looking like poorly disguised dominatrix working undercover at an army themed party. The issue of male gaze plagues the film to the extent that a friend took one look at our costumes and made a joke about Judith Butler. And yet dressing up as them was the most fun I have ever had on Halloween – including the year I spent making pumpkins into cats.
So I don’t know how I feel about Halloween. Gender inequality is far, far more scary than any heavily made-up zombie or vamped up Twilight fan. Were our Sucker Punch costumes a trick or a treat for womankind? Maybe my enjoyment taken from dressing as Blondie was purely because of deeply rooted patriarchal values instilled in the way I act and even think. On the other hand, perhaps my inner feminist likes to express herself through dressing up a little bit like a dominatrix.
My head hurts. And not just from the vodka.