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Girls gone too far? Some parents express concerns over commercial costumes for girls

Devil Darling Child Costume.

Angie Schiltz is on the other end of the spectrum.

The only aspect of Halloween her family celebrates is dressing up and trick-or-treating in the south Fargo neighborhood where they've lived for 10 years. Schiltz doesn't care for the pagan roots of Halloween.

But these two moms, who each have three daughters (Grant also has a son, age 3) have something in common regarding the Oct. 31 holiday: a distaste for the girls' costumes available in stores.

"Female costumes are entirely too racy for all age groups. There's no way my kids would wear anything like that," Schiltz says.

She doesn't even let them look at the flyer from a national party store advertising Halloween costumes, which feature bare-midriffs and fishnet stockings - on women and girls.

"Ninety-nine percent of those costumes don't belong outside a bedroom door," Schiltz says.

Shannon Terry is an instructor of sociology at Minnesota State University Moorhead. She's discussed sexually objectifying Halloween costumes in her Sociology of Gender class.

"It's not just a phenomena of Halloween," Terry says. "The objectification of very young girls and sexualization of young girls seems to be pretty prevalent in U.S. culture right now."

Earlier this year, Peggy Ornstein released the book "Cinderella Ate My Daughter," which warned of the role the princess culture plays in introducing prematurely sexy behavior and dress. According to the National Retail Federation, pint-sized princesses will continue a seven-year run as the top children's costume.

Anecdotally, Terry says she can tell the cultural sexualization of girls is getting worse. When she takes her college classes on field trips to look at toys or costumes marketed to girls, she sees fewer career options for Barbie and witch costumes with cinched corsets for 6-year-old girls.

"There aren't as many choices for girls to opt out of being sexualized," Terry says.

But Grant and Schiltz have both found ways to dress their daughters modestly for Halloween.

Schiltz says her girls, age 9, 6½ and 4, must wear "tasteful" costumes. That means no witches, devils, vampires or goblins. They've been bumblebees, ladybugs and fairies.

Usually the costumes she buys are basic, such as the mask and tail she got for one of the girls to be a kitty.

"They know the rule, anything they buy they have to be able to pile clothes on underneath them so they stay warm," Schiltz says.

Grant agrees the costumes sold in stores aren't appropriate for the weather here, nor are they appropriate in general.

"The costumes in the stores and the major catalogues are fine for the toddler crowd. But it seems that once children reach girls' sizes, the costumes are mini versions of the adult costumes," Grant says. "They seem obviously designed for adults and adult bodies to be displayed."

Grant says they make costumes to avoid that, and now that the girls are growing (ages 12, 10 and 5), she encourages scary or monster costumes. The girls have been Cleopatra's mummy, dead ballerinas and vampire mermaids.

"We try to get the children to enjoy a bit of the spookiness of Halloween with ghoulish costumes," Grant says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556