If “Mean Girls” taught us anything, it’s that Halloween is the one night out of every year a girl can dress like a “total slut” and get away with it. What self-respecting girl, compelled to wear button-up shirts and pencil skirts the other 364 days a year, would give up the right to loosen up a bit and wear an outfit made entirely out of semi-see-through spandex?
In recent years, however, the genre of sexy Halloween costumes seems to have gotten much more obnoxious. Ridiculous memes must now have “sexy” costume versions. Sexy Pizza Rat, Sexy Donald T. Rumpshaker, Sexy Cecil The Lion, and Sexy Jared Leto-inspired Joker costumes are all available for purchase. Seriously, those are all actual things that are actual options to wear this year.
As a twenty-something millennial, I can’t remember a Halloween where there weren’t costumes inspired by recent popular movies or TV shows. Every year, whatever Disney movie was a big deal at the time showed up in wearable form available to purchase at a store near you. As I grew up, these costumes got tighter, shorter, and more see-through.
Sexy Pizza Rat and Donald T. Rumpshaker, however, takes the idea of a “newsy, sexy, cool” costume to a whole new level. So what’s really going on here?
The curmudgeonly answer, or what my dad probably would have to say about Sexy Cecil the Lion, is that this is evidence the Internet has rotted our social skills. We’ve completely forgotten how to relate to one another at a normal, sane, level. There’s no creativity here. Instead we grab “sexy” costumes patterned after at lousy internet memes or political figures and use them as a conversation starter at the parties we will wear them to, because we don’t know how to talk to people in real life.
While my dad’s take on this probably has a fair bit of truth to it, there’s something else at play here with these obnoxious costumes. As it turns out, not very many people actually buy the ridiculously viral ones. They are mostly a marketing scheme cooked up by costume manufacturers so they go viral.
In other words, they’re not making Sexy Pizza Rat outfits in hopes that sorority girls across America will be dressed as a mouse with cheese for pockets. They’re suckering us all into clicking on Sexy Pizza Rat so we end up buying a Sexy Minnie Mouse or a sexy police officer outfit – or other more traditional costumes within the slutty genre.
Last year a Sexy Ebola nurse costume offered by online retailer Brands on Sale inspired headlines at ABC News, NPR, and BuzzFeed, even though I could find no evidence of anyone purchasing it. The same is true for Spirit Halloween’s Caitlyn Jenner costume; employees at the company’s Midtown Manhattan store said they’d yet to sell one despite its prominent display. Yandy’s Sexy Pizza Rat garnered millions of social media impressions, but only about 100 have been sold.
Still, there are exceptions. This year, “The Dress,” (that garment no one could properly identify the colors of) is the top selling costume at Yandy, an online lingerie and costume warehouse that’s slated to rake in $15 million in Halloween costume sales this year, according to Bloomberg Business.
Personally, I’ve always stuck to more classic ideas, like Tom from “Tom and Jerry” or the green M&M. Yet while I’ve stayed above the fray with my own costume decisions, I’ve totally perpetuated the sexy, viral, Halloween costume trap by always clicking on them. The annoying truth about these viral marketing schemes is that they work and I’m a sucker for them.
The good news is that there weren’t very many people running around last year dressed as a Sexy Ebola nurse and there won’t be many people this year sporting a Sexy Pizza Rat costume. The bad news is that these viral costume gimmicks probably aren’t going away anytime soon.