In an era of frequent internet outrage, Halloween costume retailers stir up fresh controversy every year with outfits that stretch the terms “shocking,” “edgy” or “sexy” to new lengths.
Although trick-or-treating is usually reserved for children, costume parties are still extremely popular among adults — and some companies have found success by specifically putting the “adult” in their Halloween offerings.
Sexy fake news? That’s a thing. Sexy Deadpool? Sure. Did you like the Mr. Rogers documentary? Great, because there’s a sexy female version of that costume on sale now. Oh, and in case you’ve been swept up in the Beyond Meat craze, there’s a costume for that, too.
Perhaps the biggest
offender player in the “sexy” Halloween market is Yandy, a U.S.-based lingerie retailer with thousands of risqué, pop-culture-inspired Halloween outfits for women. The company has been responsible for several viral Halloween costumes spanning the last decade, including one inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale last year. They’re also behind such 2019 headline-grabbers as the Nicest Neighbour, Sold-Out Chicken Sandwich and Beyond Burger outfits.
(Warning: the Yandy website sells lingerie and is arguably Not Safe For Work.)
The company often courts controversy with its outfits, but the Handmaid’s Tale costume proved to be too much for the public in 2018. Yandy pulled it from its store last year amid outcry over the “sexification” of an otherwise feminist character.
Despite the occasional backlash, Yandy has consistently tried to stay on the bleeding edge of pop culture each year with revealing costumes based on current events.
It’s not easy to stay on top of those trends, but Yandy can turn an idea into a sample costume within about five days, according to Pilar Quintana-Williams, the company’s vice-president of merchandising.
Quintana-Williams says anyone in the company can suggest an idea for a costume, from the marketing department to the warehouse staff.
“We start our process during the summer, looking at headlines and trying to get our finger on the pulse of what’s going on in pop culture,” Quintana-Williams said. She usually adds about 10 costumes to the store’s lineup per year in the run-up to October, which is Yandy’s busiest month.
Her criteria for a new costume are simple: “Is it a fine costume? Is it something that will make people laugh? Does the costume make sense?”
For example, she says she came up with the Mr. Rogers-inspired costume last year after news broke that there would be a documentary and a Hollywood movie about his life. Quintana-Williams sat on the idea until 2019, when Mr. Rogers would be part of the zeitgeist again.
“I think that a lot of people enjoyed it. I think they poked fun at it,” she said. “It’s just a fun character, and the model looked great.”
Yandy’s founder and former CEO, Chad Horstman, shared a few of the secrets to the company’s success back in 2015 amid a flurry of social media attention over Yandy’s “sexy” hamburger, pizza and french fry costumes at the time.
“The way we think about it is … if a girl walks into a party, are people going to know what she is?” he told CNBC in 2015. “And Step 2 … if she enters a costume contest, does she have a chance of winning?”
Of course, Yandy isn’t the only name in the “sexy” Halloween costume game. There is a wide range of retailers offering edgy, sexy or straight-up offensive costumes for adults at Halloween.
Adult costumes typically outsell kids’ costumes by a ratio of two to one, according to Wyatt Edwards, lead editor at HalloweenCostumes.com.
“I think that ratio is only going to keep skewing towards adults,” he told Global News by email. “Halloween is often seen as a holiday for kids, but children who enjoy Halloween tend to become adults who enjoy Halloween.”
Edwards says Yandy gets a lot of “chuckles and eyerolls” within the industry, but that is “probably exactly what they’re going for.”
“It gets Yandy coverage, and I’m sure every costume company out there would love that,” he said. “But we’d much prefer to get noticed for making quality costumes that make people happy.”
Halloween costume trends tend to follow popular characters in movies, TV and video games, Edwards says. As a result, this year’s most popular costumes include Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, Pennywise from It: Chapter Two, The Joker and various Marvel characters, especially Captain Marvel and Spider-Man.
Edwards adds that witches, wizards, skeletons, vampires, clowns and zombies are always popular.
Quintana-Williams says Yandy also has a tried-and-true costume: the SWAT Hottie outfit, which has been the company’s No. 1 bestseller every year for the last seven years.
Where to draw the line on a costume
Edwards says his company stocks a wide range of outfits, including “sexy” costumes for adults. However, HalloweenCostumes.com draws the line at anything that might be seen as outright hateful or harmful.
“That changes over time so we’ve certainly removed costumes that we didn’t feel comfortable selling any longer,” he said.
The company faced its own costume-related controversy in 2017 when it pulled an Anne Frank-inspired costume from its site amid accusations that it was making light of the Holocaust.
Quintana-Williams says Yandy isn’t aiming for those over-the-top outrage controversies like the one around the Handmaid’s Tale outfit.
She added that the company’s goal is simple: to create sexy costumes that women will enjoy wearing.