Halloween can be magical. Haunted hayrides, pumpkins glowing, the smell of cinnamon. And the candy. Of course, the candy.
But it can also be infuriating.
So if you’re frustrated with the choices, and you’re looking for inspiring Halloween costumes for girls, you’ve come to the right place.
Why is Halloween the Prime Time for Oversexed Costumes and Outdated Gender Stereotypes?
For me, it first clicked in college. Even with no children of my own, I realized how sexist and stereotypical costumes could be. And really, most of them WERE sexist and stereotypical. The whole “let’s be a sexy anything” for Halloween by adult women somehow filtered down to the girls’ section.
Let’s take police officer costumes as an example.
Searches for “police officer costume men” turned up the following results. Most have badges and hats, some with handcuffs or a gun, all with strong leg stances.
Boys are similar; mostly long pants and official-looking hats. Their movements are active – talking on the walkie-talkie, a respectful hat tip, and using the megaphone.
Then we’ve got the women. Totally different story.
Mostly thin white women, cleavage galore, high heels, exposed thighs and even some midriff. All very practical for upholding the law. (If you’re wondering, the little boy turned up in the search; these are screen shots.) But honestly, if you’re a grown woman and want to wear this, be my guest!
The problem is…. when the sexy trope filters down to girls.
Girls’ Costumes are Getting Sexier and More Decorative
While not as overtly sexual as the women’s costumes, these costumes starkly contrast the boys’. Mostly V-necks (contrast with the boys’ collars), all skirts (have you ever seen a law enforcement officer in a skirt?), all in passive stances. Lots of stylish hands on the hip, like a college girl’s Instagram. No one looks ready for a pursuit, do they?
To take it one step further, several other sites featured tutus for young toddler law enforcement costumes. In fact, there are LOTS of tutu options for almost every girl costume: batwoman, supergirl, skeletons, candy corn – things that have nothing to do with ballet or fairies or things that might normally go with a tutu.
Certainly tutus can be fun, and many many preschool girls (even with the most gender conscious parents) go through a princess phase.
But when princesses and tutus start to feel like the ONLY option, suddenly girls have NO options.
10 Inspiring Halloween Costumes for Girls
This post started out as a collection of costumes that were not highly gendered for anyone. But the more and more I browsed costumes, the clearer it became that girls needed some good options of their own. However, I think boys will like a lot of these costumes, too!
(This post contains affiliate links, which means ToB may receive a small commission if you choose to buy anything. But you’re free to purchase anywhere. Thanks for your support! Read full disclosures here.)
1. Pilot (Bessie Coleman or Amelia Earhart)
Bessie Coleman was the first African-American woman and the first Native American woman to get her pilot’s license. The year was 1921. Amelia Earhart made several record-breaking flights, including the first solo transatlantic flight in 1932.
Even though it’s been a loooong time since I’ve seen The Incredibles, I remember that Violet comes out of her shell as the movie progresses, and embraces her superpowers of turning invisible and creating force fields.
If you’re one of those families who loves a theme for everyone, gather everyone together and be The Incredibles!
Show everyone that you love ALL colors with this Crayons costume.
When I was in 7th grade, my friends and I each picked a color crayon and went as a group. The best part was spraying our hair with temporary dye.
Or go as a solo crayon like this yellow one. Comes in red, blue, and several other colors.
4. Doctor (Doc McStuffins)
If your child loves to help people or animals, she might want to be a doctor or a vet for Halloween. These cute lab coats from The Little Star Company on Etsy can be personalized. The imaginative play will continue for years!
For kids who are big fans of Doc McStuffins, this is one of the most down-to-earth McStuffins costumes available (i.e. without a huge frilly tutu.)
Unsurprisingly, but still maddeningly, almost all of the models wearing fire chief costumes are young white boys.
We recently bought a similar second-hand fire coat and hat from a neighbor, but this package has everything: a walkie-talkie, a fire extinguisher, and more!
Even after Halloween ends, your child can continue to play dress-up in this anytime.
6. Supreme Court Justice
We now have THREE female justices to pick from! It gives my inner law geek the goosebumps. Of course, I’d prefer at least five. Majority, baby! But that’s why we need to inspire the next generation.
During an interview with Oprah, Justice Sonia Sotomayor (my personal favorite) said, “If your child marches to a different beat, a different drummer, you might just have to go along with that music. Help them achieve what’s important to them.”
My best friend’s little one added a lacy collar, a slicked back ponytail, sticky earrings, and a serious expression for a spot-on Ruth Bader Ginsburg a few years ago.
I can’t get enough of this mini-Notorious RBG.
There’s a strange misconception that girls don’t like dinosaurs. Or that boys like them more. Au contraire. My daughter loves to “rahhhr,” especially when she listens to the Laurie Berkner Band’s “We Are the Dinosaurs” tune.
The best thing about this dinosaur costume from The Geek Garden on Etsy is that it can double as a cozy poncho in the winter, suitable for any occasion.
So colorful and fun! Would it be weird if I bought it for myself?
8. Mathematicians of Hidden Figures
Did you and your kids love the story of Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson – three mathematicians who achieved tons of “firsts,” including a key role in sending astronaut John Glenn to space? They faced more barriers than most, and overcame them. Celebrate women in STEM by honoring the women of Hidden Figures.
Draw inspiration from this group of students in Milwaukee who emulated these women as part of Black History Month.
Check Etsy or other vintage sites for understated 1960s clothes like this coat from French Laundry Co or a plaid dress like this from the late ’50s or early 60’s, from Petit Poesy. Throw on some retro cat-eye tortoise glasses for the finishing, book-smart touch. Bonus points for a metal lanyard – write in a “NASA” ID badge to make your trick-or-treater look official.
Even though it’s been several years since the Harry Potter mega-hype peaked, the story and Hermione remain beloved. While I haven’t conquered the whole series yet myself, I know that the intelligent and determined Hermione is a perpetual fan favorite. My niece and nephew dressed as the characters a few years ago.
“In a world where females are constantly played to be dumbed down, she resists every stereotype.” – The Odyssey
An especially appealing piece of the story is the platonic relationship between Hermione and her pals. It’s so rare that children imbibe these boy-girl friendships without any romantic undertones.
Grab your wand and go!
10. Rosie Revere, Engineer
Would it be weird if I dressed as Rosie as an adult? Probably. But I just love her!
Hands down, Rosie Revere, Engineer is one of my all-time favorite children’s books. Don’t you just love her passion for invention? And her wacky family?
Don’t you just love the lesson about failure, and why we need to embrace failure? It’s a hard thing for girls and women to do. And that’s why this book is soooo needed for every girl.
If you’re a DIYer, check out this at-home costume you can make.
Any other ideas? Be sure to tell us below. Happy Halloween!
*A note about cultural appropriation: be sure to think carefully about your child’s Halloween costume if they consider dressing as a person who is not within the same race or culture. While I believe it is POSSIBLE to dress respectfully and carefully as a specific well-known person who shares a different race or ethnicity than you, it’s best to avoid general cultural stereotypes, such as a Native American with a headdress, a geisha, or a Mexican person with a sombrero. Please do your research and read more here, here, and here.