Some Non-Racist, Non-Sexist Halloween Costume Ideas

Every year we read about the worst sexist and racist Halloween costumes. And get really angry or bummed out about what should be a fun excuse to play dress-up.

So let’s discuss some alternatives, shall we? Most of these ideas can be thrown together last-minute — because how many of us really plan our costumes that far in advance? (Warning: Some ideas may contain shoulder pads.)

Radical, Militant Librarian

Need: Books, beret, sash, “shushing” skills.
Related ideas: Radical Doula (heeeyyy Miriam!), Radical Cheerleader, Radical Zombie

The Ghost of Health Care Bills Past

Need: White sheet, stethoscope
Related ideas: Ghost of Immigration Reform Bills Past, Ghost of Equal Rights Amendments Past. (Or apparently, given the image I’ve selected, Ghosts of Stevie Nicks Past.)

A Photoshop Disaster

Need: A t-shirt with a body drawn on it that’s less than half the size of your own. Or something (Haven’t really figured out how to make this one work yet…)
Related ideas: This is part of the grand Halloween tradition of just drawing some shit on a T-shirt… Could also be done with a Death Becomes Her Halloweeny twist.

Kanye West

Need: These, microphone, and a willingness to repeatedly make the “Imma let you finish” joke.
Related ideas: Taylor Swift (Couple costume!)

Nancy Pelosi

Need: Suit (preferably w/ skirt, not pants), gavel, shades, funky-but-understated jewelry.
Related ideas: Condi Rice, Hillary Clinton.

Dolly Parton

Need: Blonde wig, lots of sequins, guitar, falsies.
Related ideas: Leslie Hall

John Waters

Need: Garish-patterned suit jacket, drawn-on thin mustache, bowtie, drag-queen pals.
Related ideas: A dandy, Steve Buscemi (but only if you’ve got the looks for it.)

Judy the Talking Embryo

Need: Garbage bag, helium (to either inflate the bag or inhale to make your voice embyro-like). More info here.
Related ideas: Betty the Talking Blastocyst, Ollie the Talking Ovum.

Rickie Vasquez (from My So-Called Life)

Need: Drum-major jacket, hair gel, earring, shoulder pads, a buddy to go as Angela Chase.
Related ideas: Thriller-era Michael Jackson, actual drum major

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Need: Lacy neckerchief thing, black robe, clip-on earrings, bun, glasses.
Related ideas: Sonia Sotomayor

Heathers (Group idea!)

Need: Blazer with serious shoulder pads, croquet mallet, AquaNet, white tights.
Related ideas: 90210 (the original, obvs)

Richard Simmons

Need: Short track shorts, curly wig, thick white socks, tank top.
Related ideas: Evil aerobic clown

Werewolf Bar Mitzvah

Need: Fur, face paint, friends who like 30 Rock and will get the joke once you start singing.
Related ideas: Vampire Bar Mitzvah, Goblin Bar Mitzvah

Bea Arthur (RIP! This is an in-memoriam costume idea, one that I will probably use this year.)

Need: Gray wig and/or curling iron and gray spray-in hair color, a serious silk tracksuit, shoulder pads. Gratefulness for being a friend.
Related ideas: Other Golden Girls, obvs.

Last-minute cop-outs:
Shark: Tape a cardboard fin to your back
Unicorn: Tape a cardboard cone to your forehead
Narwhal: Tape a skinnier cardboard cone to your forehead.

Other costume ideas? C’mon I know you’ve got some good ones, so leave them in comments (including instructions on how to put it together). I’ll keep adding to this post as good ideas pop up.

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125 Comments

  1. CathyLBeck
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    Calvin is cute till there’s a naughty kid in the family. Then, he becomes the scariest character possible!

  2. paper tiger
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    I’m going all out this year, fingers crossed, I’ll be a female Wikus with gangly bloody alien arm from District 9.
    Failing that I would love to go as a Photoshop disaster, but can’t see how I can alter myself enough to make it look striking.
    Plan Z is to go as a Silent Hill nurse. They actually look very frightening, but err a little too much on the ‘sexy’ side for my liking. If you can call deformed murderous nurses sexy. :]

  3. char3169
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    i didn’t know the narwhale was feminist-friendly? jokes.
    i’m going as dorothy from the wizard of oz, pretty “normal” costume.
    a few of my friends are going as the “slut-justice league”, dressed as superheroes, with backpacks full of sweaters, tights, and mid-length skirts to hand out to girls who are accidently (or not so accidently) exposing themselves in public. i think it’s hilarious. maybe a little offensive, but hey, it’s usually around -5C on halloween here, far too cold to be half naked.

  4. Gnatalby
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    You should add The Chief from the Josie and the Pussycats movie!

  5. Pamphilia
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I went as Libra two years ago! It was a FABULOUS costume, though the only people who got it were two older lesbians at the bar. They picked up on it immediately and I spent the whole night hanging out with them, making fun of the frat boys who had NO idea what I was supposed to be and were all dressed either as molesting priests or wangs.

  6. amurph11
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    That’s what we’re doing, but I wanted to gore it up a little bit, so I’m going as Mia Wallace post-OD: fake blood and white powder under my nose, mussed-up hair, a fake syringe sticking out of my chest (haven’t quite figured out how to make that one work yet – any ideas?). Considering whether he should go with the traditional suit-and-bolero look or the much funnier shorts and UC Santa Cruz shirt…either way, I’m excited.

  7. Pamphilia
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I think my main squeeze and I will be going this year as Buster and Lucille 2. I’ve been listing to Liza with a Z! for weeks in preparation!

  8. MamaSandy
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    My 5 year old daughter asked to go as Abby from NCIS several months ago. We’ve been having tons of fun making that costume. It’s such a geeks dream!!

  9. VT Idealist
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    We’ve been trying to convince another friend to go as Torgo. There will be no women rolling around in see-through nighties, though. One, that’s just not going to happen, and two, more importantly, we live in Vermont and it’s cold this time of year. We’d have to wear long johns unnder everything, and that would just ruin the effect.
    This year I’ve been getting an education in truely bad movies. I am now familiar with the works of both Ed Wood and Andy Sidaris.

  10. Mytrr
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    My husband is going as Captain Hammer :)
    I wanted to go as Doctor Horrible, but I just didn’t have time to put the costume together this year. Instead, I’m going as a taco, store bought foamie costume. I’m even drawing little hot peppers on my face and making a necklace out of Taco Bell Fire Sauce packets. There are so many other things I’d rather go as, but I’m not purchasing a “sexy” version, which is about all you can find in the ladies section, and I don’t have time this year to go all out.

  11. VT Idealist
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    One year my friend and I went as Ann and Nancy Wilson from Heart. Black and blond curly wigs, 80′s type clothes, and we carried our guitars. Not a lot of people got it, though.

  12. ArtOfMe
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I’m not dressing up this year, but I think I could probably make a pretty good Tonks from Harry Potter (book version). I already have short hair, I’d just need to get a one-night pink hair dye, patched jeans, old sneakers, and I’d probably make my own weird sisters Tshirt and perhaps buy a wand. Would be fun to do that.
    Eh, the talking embryo and Kanye West suggestions are kinda iffy, just saying.

  13. era4allNOW
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I’m surprised no one else has mentioned this (maybe I’m just personally a little obsessed with the movie), but my friend and I are planning to go as roller derby women in the style of “Whip It”. We are both trying to settle on cool names.
    You can buy roller derby outfits, or if you have one of those pleated skirts plus a tank top (or a girl scout looking dress or shirt), all you really need are roller skates, and depending on the look you want, knee/elbow/wrist pads, helmet, probably some fish net tights and knee high socks or a pair of hot pants. Then just do the hair as funky as you want: pig tails, dye it a funky color or put interesting color highlights in, put colored extensions in, whatever you like. I plan on also doing my makeup more outrageous than usual.
    This costume can easily get expensive, but if you already have a couple of the items, such as the skirt/tank plus skates, there’s only some accessory type items you have to hunt down unless you really want to go all out. In any case, I’m a roller-derby woman wanna-be, so I plan to use Halloween as my outlet.

  14. Kimberly
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Marie Curie!
    I shall be zombie Marie Curie for the Zombiewalk, and my partnet miiiight be Pierre Curie.
    Yay!
    (This occured to me > 30 mins ago, and I’m still very excited.)

  15. NapoleonInRags
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Just to be clear here: Your feminist objections to a woman’s costume do not give you the right to harass her about it. Nor are you and your friends the god-given arbiters of whether or not it’s too cold to expose skin.
    There’s an awful lot of slut-shaming and paternalism that’s painfully evident in this stuff.
    Want to debate whether or not the sex-ification of Halloween hurts women generally, OK. But walking around a party telling women to cover up is not at all cool.

  16. SarahS
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    As a librarian, I find this costume to be badass and awesome. It is based on the long history of our profession (which has always been a female dominated profession). Librarians of the time period represented here really did shhh people. It’s a historical reality. Acting out a historical reality is REALLY different then acting out a stereotype. I don’t know of any stereotype of librarians wearing berets. This is a specific costume based on a specific picture, not a referendum on librarianship.
    And if you want to see what a real librarian does, then come to my library and you’ll see me having to tell people to keep it down. Yesterday I had two screaming fighting children, a man snoring, and three teens working on a poster project. In my tiny library of less then 7,000 square feet, they all had to be told to be quiet. I embrace both our shhing past and our “Sir, I’ll need you to keep it down” reality.

  17. uberhausfrau
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    im not sure how that’s not sexist, mocking a woman for her reproductive choice.
    or maybe im just tired of the duggar’s being everyone’s favourite hate-on family.

  18. uberhausfrau
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    this is probably my favourite “feminist parenting” children’s costume.
    http://www.wubblog.com/wubby/2008/11/connor-rocks-widget.html

  19. Kate
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I’m going as Medusa! Black sheet + lots of green eye makeup + a bag of those plastic snakes they sell in the kid toy aisle at any grocery store. Reclaiming, indeed!

  20. rebekah
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    that’s pretty great, especially since the character is female in the show. Makes me happy to see that parents will bend the gender roles with their kids

  21. Heina
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    I am going as American Health Care Victim — zombie make-up, patriotic decor I picked up after 4th of July on clearance tacked to my dress, and moaning “COOOO-PPPAYYY….”

  22. anatina.livejournal.com
    Posted October 22, 2009 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    how is the kanye costume any more racist than the richard simmons costume? are they not equally famous?

  23. Genevieve PlusCourageuse
    Posted October 23, 2009 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    I love that you have narwhal on here. I’ve talked to too many people who think they’re mythological and I love it when they’re mentioned.
    I’m dressing as Mary Wollstonecraft.

  24. caffeinatedqueer
    Posted October 23, 2009 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    Last year, in a flurry of geeky genius, a bunch of classmates and I dressed up as life-sized contraceptives. We’re all in a public health program, focusing on sexual/reproductive health issues, so it was appropriate.
    We all wore white t-shirts, and put the effectiveness rates of our methods on the back. Methods represented included latex/barriers, nuva ring (involving a hula hoop), IUDs, sponges/spermicide, abstinence pledges, the rhythm method, a pill pack, and more. It was dorky fun, though not very many people understood. We brought condoms and dental dams along with us and passed them out throughout the evening.

  25. pinoytutorial
    Posted October 23, 2009 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    There are many interesting costumes out in the market today, even your babies can join you too! And they will look very cute on those little costumes.
    On the other hand, some people may opt to “extend” their creativity to the next level by creating costumes that might make your head spinning.
    View all the adorable and hilarious halloween costumes here
    http://pinoytutorial.com/lifebytes/cute-halloween-costume-ideas-for-babies/
    http://pinoytutorial.com/bestandworst/most-embarrassing-halloween-costumes

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