Any holiday cannot be imagined without costumes. Costumes have been used in many cultures for centuries, and they are still popular nowadays. It is rather interesting why the ancient tradition has survived for such a long period. Costumes became an inseparable part of any holiday or feast that has been arranged in most communities. They let people be someone else, give the possibility to express their feelings and inner world, and just to have fun. They help to create an atmosphere of relaxation, ease, and festive feeling of joy and happiness. However, the biggest benefit of fancy dress costumes is that they bring fun, the thought about transformation is often enough to excite anyone. That is why, both adults and children like to wear costumes (Ogletreea, 1993).
The time of Halloween is coming, and it is time to buy a costume. This essay studies the gender psychology issues connected with costumes manufacturing and marketing. Today, one can notice the gender discrimination trends in the costumes range, as there are strict differences between clothes for girls and boys, and there is a limited amount of gender-neutral holiday items. Old traditions and views on gender and discrimination are the determinants of such trends in modern costumes industry.
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One of the problems with costumes is the fact that, sometimes, it is rather difficult to determine whether the costume is for children or adults. Therefore, in many markets, they are lying separately. In addition, in many shops, costumes are separated not only by age but also by gender within the store itself. The department of children fancy dress costumes contained the clothes of toddlers, infants, and youths sizes. It also offered costumes of fairy tails and cartoons characters for infants. Among costumes for adults, on the other hand, there were many items related to sexual themes that were not designed for youth and children. It is rather thoughtful to separate costumes for adults and children, as when children come to choose fancy dress costumes, they have no ability to see sexually oriented clothes. This strategy gives children the right to be children and to spend their childhood in the fairy world (Campos, 2004).
In the stores, the boys’/men’s costumes are not separated from the girls’/women’s ones. If the separation took place in the store, it would create the problem with the gender-neutral costumes. This trend is a positive tendency of excluding gender discrimination from the day-to-day life, and it provides a person with a chance to make his/her own decision on gender preferences without any biases and pressure. The reason of such separation is caused also by tolerance that has been raised in society for many years.
The term “costume” has various meanings. It is the clothes specially designed for play purposes; it is a special fancy dress that is designed for themed parties or holidays. This cloth is worn by people, in order to look like a hero, mysterious character, or any other person or object (for example, an apple, flowerpot, or tree). The characteristics of costumes depend on the country, culture, time frame, and/or group of people.
As a rule, the markets offer costumes that have masculine, feminine, and neutral designs. This trend has shaped during many centuries; however, it has rather negative influence on society; sometimes a customer has specific, extraordinary wants that are out of female or male boundaries. Sometimes a male may want to have a costume of brown butterfly, or a female may want to be a dragon; usually, these needs cannot be satisfied by the costumes presented in the market. It is rather negative that people are divided into gender categories (Nelson, 2000).
The process of labeling costumes demonstrates genderism. For example, the costume of a laptop can be ranged as a female one, because it is pink, has a long curly blond hear with the cherry bobby-pin, white pantyhose and Mary Jane shoes with pink bows on them. Although the gender of the costume model can be defined by the make up, jewelry, high hills shoes, curly long hear (usually blond) adorned with bows, male rough shoes, etc. These descriptions are all about traditional image of “a little lovely girl” and “a little boy in the short shorts.” These stereotypes impose pressure on the child’s psychology. Sometimes, the products packing demonstrate the model that wears the costume. Many people do not agree that such gender orientation strategy should be used to encourage children and adults to choose fancy dress costumes. Today’s world should be tolerant to the gender of a person as it is only up to him/her to choose how to look like. Male holiday costumes are usually costumes of warriors, secret agents, cowboys, kings, supernatural characters, superheroes, vampires, spiritual creatures, monsters, or popular antiheroes. These images were distinguished as masculine ones, because they contained dark and pastel colors, had specific attributes that were related to the masculine characteristics, for example, short periwigs.
Female costumes had few images to choose. These costumes could be determined easily to be female ones because they had lots of details of red, pink, and nearly pink colors. They had a range of specific attributes and accessories associated with the female gender. Most of the costumes were themed as princes, beauty queens, brides, cheerleaders, witches, and other purely female characters. The market place lacked female costumes of monsters, spiritual beings, and villainous characters. The store presented the traditional femininity range of costumes. Gender-neutral costumes were represented by the wide range of animals and inanimate items. They had no costume details associated with a specific gender, which included accessories and even colors. They had paws, tails, and mechanical details and went beyond any stereotyped image.
The costumes also were classified as masculine, female, and gender neutral ones by the names that were noted on the packages. Masculine ones were named as the Lord Lancelot, Pirate Boy, Native American Boy, King of Bounty, for example. On the other hand, among female ones there were the Little Princes, Tasty Pumpkin Pie, Beauty Girl, or Lovely Witch. At the same time, gender-neutral costumes were named as the thing or animal they were representing. These costumes were free of gender stereotyped colors, details, and accessories.
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The ranges of costumes are not only gender-stereotyped but also cause the discrimination of an individual. For example, some female costumes were sized only for thin girls and lots of them had such accessories that did not allow wearing glasses; the masculine costume models faced the same problem. However, gender-neutral costumes had a wide range of sizes and many full-designed costumes allowed wearing glasses. This kind of discrimination can make anyone, especially a young person, feel depressed and frustrated, because of lack of possibility to wear what he/ she wants.
As the research shows, most costumes are gender-oriented and stereotyped. This traditional perception make people feel themselves as “in the cage” and have no choice how to look like (Spad, 2008). These stereotypes about female and masculine oriented models make children and adults think that they are not normal, and have to hide and suppress their emotions and feelings. This situation may cause psychological disorders and moral conflicts.
Today’s people are all-sufficient and self-confident individuals. They cannot be oppressed by the costumes market manufacturers; every consumer should feel free in the ability to be him/ herself. Costumes manufacturers limit children in their wish to be a person they want to be, because traditional and modern perceptions of a gender are quite opposite. The manufactures have to change their attitude and range of products. Times have changed; therefore, costumes industry should go beyond conservative designs based on traditional gender images.