As a feminist, my inclination has been to steer my daughter towards Halloween costumes that play up strength and cleverness. Since my suggestions are often met with eye rolls, I realized it didn’t matter what she actually dressed as; it mattered how I brought attention to the strong and smart traits of the characters she wanted to portray. This meant paying close attention to how I spoke about her costumes. Even when she chose to dress as the abused, selfless, objectified Snow White, I found empowering things to say about my daughter’s Halloween costume.
Halloween was never really my thing, until I had kids. When they were babies, I loved to dress them up in adorable mini-costumes and parade them around to the “oohs” and “aaahs” of our neighbors. As they got older, and more vocal about what they wanted to dress as, it became incredibly fun to watch pieces of their personalities manifest into their yearly costume choices. My son has gravitated towards anything that comes with a lightsaber, while my daughter has historically opted to go as Disney characters; embodying princesses and villains alike.
So, instead of leaning on tired compliments like “so scary,” “so pretty,” or “so cute,” which isolated much if not all of the focus on my little girl’s appearance, I tried some of these empowering things we can all say about our daughters’ Halloween costumes. So far, so good.
“What A Fantastic Choice”
My kids are always second-guessing their decisions and changing their minds about what to dress up as for Halloween. It’s nothing short of infuriating, so this year we’ve given them deadlines. There is no going back or changing their minds after that point, so if they’ve become disenchanted with their choice they’re SOL. That’s why it’s empowering to tell my daughter her costume choice is fantastic, as it works to it bolster her confidence in her decision. Everyone has doubts, so hearing this kind of remark can be such a relief.
"That Is So Creative"
“Creative” is a great way to sound positive, without remarking on anyone’s actual costume-making (or buying) talent. Even if she looks like a hot mess, or you spent exactly nine seconds taking the costume out of the package and onto her body, praising her creativity will give her pride a boost.
"Tell Me Why You Wanted To Dress As This Amazing Character/Creature/Unrecognizable Thing"
Showing your daughter that you have a vested interest in her costume will mean the world to her. Knowing that someone value’s her ideas and her way of thinking, will encourage her to share them more often (hopefully).
I was so shy as a kid, and I’m relieved that my daughter is not the same way. I want to hear what she has to say. Empowering her to speak her mind now will surely pay off later in her life when she’s negotiating a raise, or running for office. (OK, that’s my dream for her, not necessarily her dream for herself, but still.)
"You Must Feel Great Wearing That"
Emphasis on how we feel rather than how we look (especially to others) is sure to help pave our way towards increased body positivity. When we tell ourselves we want to look good, we need to go deeper than physical appearance; we want to look good to feel good. Plus, “looking good” is open to interpretation.
My daughter thinks she wants to dress as a generic witch this winter. That’s typically not a character associated with beauty, but that’s not her goal. She wants to actually look like a witch who wouldn’t be selling a make-up line.
"I Can't Even Recognize You!"
Even with a mask on, lined up with eight other children in the exact same costume, I can tell which one’s my kid. However, children’s only goal with costumes is to be unrecognizable and "scary" and truly embody the character they decided to be this season. They really want to fool grown-ups, and this is the one day a year we can (and should) let them.
"How Did You Come Up With This Costume Idea?"
Even if she chose a princess gown off the rack, praising a girl’s brain power is always the right move. It shows her you value her thought process, even if her reason is as complex as “wanting to look fancy.”
"What An Inspiring Costume"
My daughter is always being asked who inspires her, or being told “look at this feminist role model!” That’s all wonderful, but to credit her as an inspiration would be terrific for her self-esteem. It might also push her to go that extra mile when it comes to working on a costume, especially if she knows (or thinks) younger girls will be admiring her choice.
"That’s One Of The Most Fun Costumes I’ve Seen All Day"
“Fun,” like “creative,” encompasses a wide swath of attributes without identifying anything as “better.” Making a person smile means you’ve made an impression on them.
“Fun” doesn’t mean “funny,” though, so be careful to make the distinction. “Fun” indicates you are having a great time watching her strut her stuff in her costume. Fun is contagious.
"That Costume Fits You Perfectly"
Whether you mean this literally (like, the hem isn’t dragging on the floor and the mask isn’t falling off her face), or figuratively (as in, this outfit totally matches your personality), it’s a wonderfully body positive statement, devoid of any attention on her size or shape or their relativity to anyone else’s appearance.
"You’re Going To Get A Lot Of Candy In That Costume!"
Halloween is all about the candy. That’s what kids care about the most. I tried so hard for years to make the holiday candy-agnostic for my kids but, eventually, they caught on to the lure of trick-or-treating.
So, in the end and if all else fails, appeal to what they’re really into Halloween for: the loot.