Costumes show Halloween isn't just for kids
We're at Marysville Town Center, in the adult costume section of the seasonal store, part of a national chain.
In a "Sultry Separates" aisle, we find a "Killer Curves" red-devil minidress, with a low-cut bodice. Devil horns and a pointy tail are included.
Next comes the "Career Costumes" section, where a woman can get a whole new persona: "Sassy Maid," "Nurse Ophelia Payne," "Racy Referee" and from the Dreamgirl brand, a "Mile-High Captain."
The, um, press isn't left out. There's a "Star-Stalker Kit," with a hat that says "News," an inflatable camera and press pass.
A men's section has a few unmentionables, plus a "Heavenly Father" priest get-up, a "Ring Toss" outfit with a strategically placed peg, and one called "Genie in the Lamp," boldly printed with a suggestive instruction. Oh, and there's a "Big Baby" -- with pacifier, bottle and oversized diaper.
Halloween City has plenty of appropriate children's costumes, too. What was once treat-or-treat night for kids has morphed into a whole month of family fun, with pumpkin patches, harvest parties, haunted houses and costume parades.
Yet it's clear that, more and more, Halloween is an adult affair -- look at that costume store's inventory -- even as some schools shy away from recognizing the day.
A report last week on the U.S. News & World Report website, citing the National Retail Federation, said average Halloween revelers planned to spend almost $80 each on costumes, decorations and candy. All that spending isn't kid stuff.
At the Tulalip Resort Casino, 1,200 people, all 21 and older, came Saturday night to Monster Bash 2012, a costume party in the Orca Ballroom. Tickets were $20 at the door, or $15 in advance.
Sam Askew, the casino's general manager, said the crowd was the largest since the Monster Bash was started four years ago. "Guests come in just about every type of costume imaginable," Askew said. "Some came as the artwork on the site -- the fisherman in the water feature in front of the casino, and the welcome-man figure in our lobby. It's not just goblins or sexy outfits. They really get creative."
They get competitive, too. Kevin Reyes, of Seattle, won $1,000 in Saturday's Monster Bash costume contest. Reyes, who is in his 30s, made his demon knight costume himself -- except for the mask, which he bought on eBay. Other years, he dressed as a zombie clown and a giant alien.
"My family couldn't always afford a costume. Sometimes it was a brown paper bag over my head," Reyes said Tuesday. "Now I can afford it, and I wanted to catch up." He plans to spend his winnings on his upcoming wedding. "This will help," he said.
Askew said the party lets parents enjoy an adult night out and still go trick-or-treating on Halloween with their children.
I don't recall my parents ever wearing Halloween costumes. New Year's Eve was their big night out. In old pictures, their dress-up clothes resemble the wardrobe from TV's "Mad Men." They looked like the grown-ups they were.
Stephanie Coontz sees meaning in today's adult Halloween trend. A faculty member at The Evergreen State College, Coontz has written several books about changing roles, including "A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s" and "Marriage, A History."
She has talked about what she calls the "hottie mystique." Unlike 50 years ago, women are no longer locked into expectations of being what used to be called housewives.
"One gain of the increasing emphasis on individuality, people are feeling sexy at older ages. That's a positive," she said Monday. With that, driven by what Coontz sees as today's celebrity obsession, is pressure on both men and women to look a certain way.
"Yes, you can be anything you want -- but look at Angelina Jolie, look at all these action heroes -- you also need to be sexy while doing it," Coontz said. "We also have a youth-obsessed culture. Once, young people couldn't wait to grow up. Now grown-ups want to act like 20-somethings."
And those naughty-nurse costumes? "It's really a leftover from the past," Coontz said. "It's a new emphasis on sexuality combined with rather old female and male fantasies."
It's Halloween. Let's not think so hard about why everybody wants in on the fun.
"A lot of people these days are trying to find an escape that's safe and secure, one that draws back fond memories," said Askew, the casino manager. "Everyone has a fond memory of Halloween."
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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