by Jennifer Baumgartner, Psy.D. in The Psychology of Dress
My finger hovered hesitantly over the computer mouse. Do I buy the demure princess costume or the cheeky cheerleader outfit? I waited for a response but my virtual shopping cart did not provide any answers. This seemingly easy decision represented one that I, like most females, must make frequently when deciding what to wear.
Women are expected to find the perfect balance between the “good” girl and the “bad” girl. If we consider the Madonna-whore complex experienced by men, women are placed into two mutually exclusive categories. A female is either the sexless prude who you take home to momma or the super slut who you bed. Although we would like to think of our society as a forward thinking one these categories are still present and women are still placed in them by men… and other women!
What woman doesn’t love to be admired, feel attractive, and know that she has still “got it”? In an effort to experience all of these things, women may go shorter, tighter, and hotter leading her dangerously close to the “whore” category. That is until Halloween. On this day, women finally get a free pass. On this day women can be the French maid, school girl, or naughty nurse without fear that judgment will be passed because, after all, it is Halloween!
Halloween from a psychological perspective is the day of the id. The day that we can eat as much candy as we can, run amok in the streets, place gravestones and witches on our lawns, and dress in wild costumes. The id is the component of the psyche that Freud believed to operate via the pleasure principle, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. The id is partially composed of our forbidden wishes and desires. DuringHalloween, a woman’s desire to dress alluringly finally has an acceptable outlet, the Halloween costume.
Unfortunately, all of this psychobabble did not help me to decide on a costume to wear to my Aunt Fran’s Birthday and Halloween Party. Neither the princess nor cheerleader would do, so I searched for a costume with a balance of both elements. Finding the perfect costume that combines elements of sexy and sweet can be a difficult task, but Dr. B is going to help you through the process. First, you want to feel spectacular on this ghoulish holiday so choose to accentuate that which you love about yourself most. Maybe it is your eyes, which would then require a smoky eye or rhinestone eyelashes. Maybe you like your legs, so go for the shorter skirt or shorts. Second, achieve balance in your exposure. If you are showing a lot of leg don’t let it all hang out up top! Third, consider your audience and your comfort level with them. The skimpy shorts may not feel so comfortable when you are in them dancing at a fraternity house. The inflate-a-bra may not have been the right choice for your boyfriend’s family Halloween celebration. Fourth, consider the message you are sending with your costume. Are you really shocked that everyone is staring at your cleavage all night when your breasts are screaming “look at me” in a shirt made of mesh? Are you really surprised that no one has even asked you out when you are in a bulky gorilla costume? Fifth, consider the outcome you want for Halloween. If you want to be objectified by all means put on the Baywatch costume. If you want to be appreciated wear the Marilyn Monroe white dress and blonde hairpiece. And if you want to be ignored throw on the Mother Superior robe. As for me, I went with the Queen Dr. Bee costume