Halloween: Fright of the Career Costume

shutterstock_270985643Last week, an open letter to Party City got a woman named Lin Kramer banned from the Party City Facebook page, and then the letter promptly went viral. In the letter, Lin Kramer calls out Party City for having far more career-centered costumes marketed to boys than to girls, with 30% of boys’ costumes being career-centered versus only 7% of the girls’. Party City has since responded via the Huffington Post, but most folks feel a bit unsatisfied by the whole exchange.

Naturally, this piqued my curiosity. Outside of Party City’s own costume categorization, are there actually many more career costumes available for boys than for girls? And, if there are, is this exclusive to Party City, or do other online retailers have the same skew?

Luckily, I happen to work at the company with the World’s Largest Product Database, so I turned once again to our Product API to sate my curiosity.

Party City Numbers

I pulled data on costumes for women, men, girls, and boys from Party City. Then I categorized the costumes as “career” or “character” based on Party City’s own criteria. I personally might not have considered a pop star, prisoner, and car hop to be careers, but I decided to do so for the sake of consistency. I also labeled cheerleader as a career, since Lin Kramer did as well, and I added a few more of my own, like nun and priest, since those can be careers.

My numbers don’t match Lin’s (who did a manual count on the website itself), but they were depressing nonetheless:


Alas, the boys have the career market cornered as opposed to the girls, by a proportionate factor of over 2:1. In our database, girls have 16 career costumes (out of 490) to boys’ 34 (out of 497).

Men and women have a much slighter skew, with men having 14 career choices (out of 218) versus women’s 12 (out of 236).

How Does Party City Compare?

To answer my second question, I looked at, which ranks one higher than Party City in my Google search results for “online costume shop”. Much to my dismay, I found very similar results:


At, girls have 12 career costumes (out of 414) to choose from, and boys have 20 (out of 322) – again a proportional difference of almost 2:1. At least men and women have more parity at this online store.

Here’s what it looks like in a chart:


Boys just have more career costumes to choose from than the girls do.

Disturbing Descriptions

Unfortunately, that’s not all I found in the data. As I was categorizing costumes, I noticed that men’s and boys’ costumes seemed, uh, a lot… warmer. They seemed like they’d be more, uh, comfortable in the often cold Halloween weather in the northern part of the US. Let’s just say that there’s a lot more material used in them.

You can see this from the descriptions alone. Here are some of the “career” costumes that these stores list for women:



The numbers back this up. 7% of women’s costumes and 12% of Party City’s contain the word “sexy”. The observant among you will note that these are much higher percentages than the women’s career costumes (at 4% and 6%, respectively).

I’ve looked at a lot of those pictures. I can’t imagine parachuting out of an airplane without wind protection, and while I know some very attractive nurses, I can guarantee they never wear THAT to the hospital. To say nothing of the impracticality of being part of a pit crew with that skirt length…

Sadly, girls’ costumes are going the same direction, since they also have the “Sexy Racer Girl Jumpsuit,” a “Foxy FBI Agent,” and a “Teen Girls Racy Referee” costumes listed. I also noticed that many of the girls’ costumes have gratuitous skirts, like the Stormtrooper costume. By all that’s Jedi, you can’t tell me that Stormtroopers have ever had skirts. If you can, I need photographic evidence. From the movies. (Also, Stormtroopers are male clones, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The data from our Product API backs Lin Kramer’s findings that boys have more career costume choices than girls, unfortunately. And it doesn’t look like Party City is the only offending party, since their main online competitor shows numbers just as bad. Those little girls who don’t have career choices will grow into adult women who have limited costume choices that aren’t “sexy” or “sultry”. I think I’ve figured out why I haven’t dressed up for Halloween for the past few decades. Manufacturers and online costume retailers – step up your game; we want better choices!

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