top of page


Understanding Cultural Appropriation this Halloween

By: Carlee

Halloween is just around the corner, and with Halloween comes a great deal of festivities and parties for all ages. Department stores have turned into Halloween central. You can’t walk into a Target, Walmart, Party City, or Savers without seeing an abundance of people shifting through the racks, looking for the perfect costume for this year’s celebrations.

I have always looked forward to Halloween and the fall fun it brings, but every year I’m taken back at some of the things my peers seem to wear. I truly believe some people do not understand how a costume could be offensive, especially when they’re being sold in stores every year, so I decided to write a blog post about cultural appropriation during Halloween.

According to, cultural appropriation is “the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, ect. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.” It happens in many scenarios, from fashion shows, to music, to clothing and accessory stores, but Halloween is when it is very prominent.

A great example of this is the typical “Seductive Indian” costume so many women choose to wear. You’ve probably seen it- a costume made up of a headdress, an all brown dress with fringes, some moccasins for shoes, and a tomahawk accessory. The “Seductive Indian” costume that women choose to wear is mass produced, and that exact costume is worn by women all over the country.

This over-sexualized costume mocks American Indian regalia, which is culturally significant to American Indians. The regalia is pieced together with elements that have been passed down through generations, with ideas seen through dreams, and they possess specific patterns and items based on style of dance. Each dance outfit is unique to that person. It takes many years to create. The crafting and sewing abilities that the creator possesses is remarkable, and few people could master this skill.

On top of the regalia, there is a long history of oppression towards American Indians in the United States. From the moment that European settlers arrived, they have lost much of their land, their people, their language, their culture, and it’s still happening today. So, to be “an Indian” for Halloween, when there’s an abundance of better and more creative costumes to buy, is ignorant. When someone wear these costumes, they’re adopting something culturally significant from the minority that has already suffered great loss. Essentially, taking a culture and making it into a caricature.

This isn’t just an issue for American Indians either, it happens to many other minorities. Offensive costumes include dressing as “A Mexican”, “An Eskimo,” “A Bollywood Dancer,” “A Gypsy,” “A Nun,” and many more. Sugar skull makeup is appealing, but the Day of the Dead is actually celebrated on November 2nd and is a spiritual holiday of relatives who have passed away. Blackface plays a repulsive part in the history of African American oppression. In the 1800s, theatre performers used to wear blackface, travel to different cities, and perform ridiculous minstrel (or comedy) shows. They would exaggerate African American stereotypes and act like fools. They made large profits off of these performances.

There are so many funny and creative costumes to wear, so why pick a costume that oppresses another human being? I don’t think most people wear these costumes to purposefully offend, I believe they just don't know much about the effects of cultural appropriation on others. I wrote this blog post to hopefully educate those who don’t understand how a costume could be offensive, and challenge my peers to think twice about their costumes this October.

Be safe, and have a Happy Halloween!!

Featured Posts
bottom of page