Can Everyone Please Stop Dressing Up As Native Americans And Geishas?

Riya Chaturvedi & Elise Orozco

In Lifestyle Posted

From the viral costumes of Kim Kardashian to Heidi Klum, Halloween has always been a monumental day for the fashion industry. Halloween trends spread quickly, often based off of celebrities and other pop culture icons. And with the impending storm of social media posts, you may feel a lot of pressure to find the perfect costume this year. But please, do not push the boundaries of cultural appropriation as so many high profile figures have already done in the past. You can easily find a trendy costume without offending someone’s culture.  

Your staple costumes like vampires, cats, and witches will always be around, but for many celebrities, Halloween is as much an avant-garde fashion show than it is a holiday. It’s all about taking costumes to the next level. These celebs essentially create the trends we, as consumers, follow, which is why it’s important for them to be culturally sensitive.  

Cultural appropriation is something we see every Halloween whether it’s Julienne Hough donning blackface or Kylie Jenner sexualizing the traditional clothing of Native Americans for a publicity stunt. The issue of cultural insensitivity is truly alive and well today.  

Julienne Hough donning blackface in 2013

After centuries of oppression and discrimination, minorities really don’t want to see their culture mocked at school on Halloween. The lack of respect showcased in many of these offensive costumes dehumanizes entire groups of people and minimizes their struggles and their history of exclusion and persecution in this country. 

However, this shouldn’t stop you from finding a stylish outfit this Halloween. The bottom line is that costumes can be fashionable and fun while still being culturally sensitive. So to help you avoid any mishaps this holiday, we’ve listed a few guidelines to keep in mind when picking out your costume along with some cute, appropriate costume ideas for this year.  

Tips for Choosing an Appropriate Halloween Costume: 

1. Do not mimic someone else’s skin color

The history behind blackface in this country is utterly disgusting and devastating. In the 19th CE, white actors would use exaggerated makeup to depict black caricatures as incompetent, lazy, ignorant, and subhuman creatures. These costumes essentially perpetuate the legacy of slavery and racial inequality in the United States. In addition to avoiding blackface this Halloween, also steer clear of yellow face and brown face. Imitating another’s skin tone is just all-around a bad idea.  

2. Cultural traditions are not a costume

Heidi Klum offended many Hindu leaders as well as religious followers when she dressed up as Kali, the Hindu goddess of death, creation, and destruction. Many people, who worship this revered deity, felt that Klum disrespected not only their god, but their culture. Please remember that other peoples’ cultural traditions are no less important than your own belief system. Simply put, repurposing others’ cultures for your costume is insulting and unacceptable. 

3. Learn the history behind your costume ideas

Many celebrities have been caught dressed in fake Native American dress or black face, not intending to offend anyone. For example, we don’t think Hillary Duff, who dressed up as a pilgrim with her boyfriend (in a Native American costume), understood the mass genocide Native Americans experienced at the hands of white colonizers or the oppression they continue to deal with to this day. Still, her lack of awareness does not excuse her actions. So please, before you dress up, do some research on your costume. 

4. If you think it could be offensive at all, just don’t wear it!

Our last advice is if you believe your costume falls into the category of cultural appropriation even slightly, it’s best to just choose something else to wear. 


Cute and Trendy Costumes for this Year: 


1. A 90’s Icon

Lately the 90s have been making a comeback in modern day fashion. This Halloween, try channeling your favorite 90s icons like Cher and Dionne from Clueless, Jennifer Lopez on the red carpet, or denim-clad Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake.


Cher and Dionne in their iconic plaid outfits in the 1995 movie, Clueless.

2. Animal Fever

All animal prints from zebra to cheetah to cow patterns are super popular right now. Feel free to take some inspiration from celebrity costumes like Ariana Grande’s adorable cow outfit last year or Taraji P. Henson’s stunning cheetah print bodysuit this year.

3. VSCO Girl

Don’t forget to grab your Fjallraven Kanken backpacks and Hydroflasks! This Halloween’s trendiest costume might just be this VSCO girl costume. What began as a meme to poke fun at teenaged girls who use the photo editing app, VSCO, has transformed into a phenomenon over the past few months. If you need some ideas for this costume, just take a look at the popular influencer, Emma Chamberlain’s Instagram feed.

Youtuber, Emma Chamberlain, rocking the classic VSCO girl accessory: scrunchies!


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