When Disguise Costumes released a “sassy”—read: “sexy”—Ursula-style costume for The Little Mermaid fans in 2012, it only came in straight sizes — no plus sizes. Critics immediately fired back. Ursula, as they rightly noted, is a sea witch of substance.
“It’s outrageously exclusionary,” a blogger named Tavie wrote at the time. “It basically tells fat women that we’re too fat to play a fat character; it also tells fat women that in order to be sexy, a character must be made skinny.”
But sexy costumes for plus-size women are just the tip of the coral reef, so to speak. Most would have trouble picking up any kind of costume off the rack.
Halloween in the United States is an $8.8 billion industry, and dressing up is a big part of it. According to the National Retail Federation, an estimated 67 percent of Americans will spend $3.2 billion on costumes this year, more than candy or decorations. But the costume industry isn’t kind to women who don’t conform to a certain size. This, despite the fact that 68 percent of American women wear a size 14 and above.
A recent survey by HalloweenCostumes.com, which bills itself as the largest online-only retailer of Halloween costumes, bears out this disconnect, too. Nearly 70 percent of the 2,000 adults it polled said they didn’t believe there are enough plus-size costume options available for consumers. The language is admittedly imprecise—what does “believe” mean? Or “enough”? What that number tells us, however, is that people are noticing a sizable gap in the market that retailers aren’t filling.