Author: Mari Meyer, GSE ’12
Jack-o-lanterns are out, the air smells like autumn, and campus is electrically buzzing with talk about Halloween. It’s hard not to hear every other student gushing about costume parties and plans as they sip on their hot cider and pumpkin lattes.
It has not been surprising to me that, in the classroom, I am blown away by Penn students’ intelligence, creativity, and cutthroat ambition. While I expect no less from them when it comes to preparing their costumes, I know that when it comes to Halloween on a college campus, all bets are off.
Thankfully, we’ve made it almost a year without the need for fishnets and mouse ears—we’ve revived our senses and reminded ourselves that cold weather requires covering up and that costume parties are not synonymous with re-enacting the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. But as my first Philadelphia Halloween draws nearer, it is hard not to wonder what this year will bring in the fascinating evolution of masquerade.
For a holiday where, as kids, we disguised ourselves in big costumes and heavy face paint in the hopes of collecting the most candy while going door-to-door, we have certainly got a pretty interesting case of folktale-misinterpretation on our hands. As “Sexy Dorothy” once said as she shivered in not much more than her sparkly red heels and frilly mini-petticoat, “we are definitely not in Kansas any more.”
For the purpose of this blog post, I will call this phenomenon the “Panda Effect,” the process by which someone’s first costume idea is slowly transformed into its most minimalist state. Take my fabulous roommate, for example, who has changed her costume plans at least seven times over the course of the last few weeks. Until yesterday, when she changed her mind altogether and decided to go as Frieda Kahlo, she planned to be a Panda. But not just any Panda, a Sexy Panda. First of all, my roommate is a very beautiful woman, so anything she wears will have the capacity to be seen as such, even if she doesn’t intend on it being so. Having said that, her version of panda involved short shorts and nothing more but a small patch of fake fur covering her belly. Of course there would be ears: it’s all about the ears when it comes to costumes. How else would we really get what someone is going for without them?
Turns into this:
While many people choose the “less is more” look, here is one example of a different kind of costume evolution, as experienced by my very dear friend as we’ve grown older (and perhaps wiser?).
Here is an early rendition, my friend as a sexy fish.
Last year, she decided it would be more fun and much warmer to lose the fish fins and go full-out zombie. Not exactly the hottest choice, unless you like blood and gore.
I cannot—or rather, should not—judge this culture, nor can I claim to have never skimped down for the sake of the season (I went as Snooki from the Jersey Shore last year, after all).
There was that one year that I wanted to make a political statement about the sexification of Halloween culture and went as an “Off-duty Playboy Bunny.” I spent most of the night having to explain exactly what I was and why, and kept thinking: Wow, I should have just worn the bunny ears and been done with it!
But here’s the thing: Halloween is so loved because it gives us one day a year to rid ourselves of inhibition and rules and dress however we want. At the very least, it gives us an opportunity to be creative with our identities, and has a built in excuse to eat the candy that we’re too embarrassed to buy in bulk any other time of the year.
So whether you’re going “spooky” or “sexy” this year, have a happy, safe Halloween, Penn!