You’re Dressing Up Like What?

a dog wearing a Star Wars costume

Some basics and a simple guide for not making a major mistake during Halloween.

by: Jesse S. Lyons, Director of Communications (w/resources from Willis HRH).

Halloween is a time to reflect on our values and make good decisions regarding our actions and perception. Halloween is a time when the most creative people on earth (college students) cobble together the best and worst of costumes. Somehow, we transition from a young child dressed as Superman, or a Fireman, or some other innocuous cute figure to a young adult who wants to choose a shocking costume to be funny. Why do we dress up when we’re kids? To get candy and enjoy a few hours not being who we normally have to be. Why do we dress up as a young adult? So we can have fun and enjoy a few hours forgetting about classes and exams. The last thing we have in mind is to offend anyone or hurt our reputation. After all its Halloween–a night with a free pass right?

Wrong. Let me be clear. Dress up, be creative, use those leftover supplies lying around your house so you can become known as a Halloween “MacGyver,” creating the best and funniest costume you can. But follow some ground rules. Remember, you’re not a comedian. You can’t claim artistic influence as a defense. You’re a student and must face all consequences: bad reputation, social media explosion, job applications, internet searches, and on and on. This means nothing that can be construed as insensitive to any groups of people. Nothing hateful or derogatory. Also, as gentlemen, nothing degrading to women, even if others want you to do so. Its simple, use those creative skills we all have in college and make something awesome and/or funny. Something you wouldn’t mind everyone seeing ALL week and the following year. And as for guests at a Halloween party? When they’re coming in to be checked off the guest list, take a hard look at their outfit. If it doesn’t meet the above criteria, turn them away. Do not take on their liability.

Have a great time, be creative, and enjoy Halloween without worrying about lingering outcomes. It’ll be much more fun.

What follows below are some information from our insurance company. Use this also as specific guidelines.

This is the time of year when many fraternities and sororities plan theme parties. Whether Halloween parties, or mixers, the themes that are chosen say a great deal about the sponsoring organizations. Choose poorly, and your chapter’s bad judgment could show up on YouTube or Facebook. These organizations faced a loss of recognition as a result of these parties. By avoiding racially and culturally sensitive words and themes, fraternity and sorority members can prove respect for and acceptance of the communities in which they live. Adapted with permission from the Party Themes Resource Guide developed by the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors:

Before your party, ask yourself:

  • Does this event rely on stereotypes of certain groups or encourage offensive dress?
  • If both men and women are invited, or even if they are not, does the event/title stereotype one of those genders?
  • Not sure if a theme is sexist? Try interchanging the word/theme with a racial word/theme.
  • Is your theme centered on “Making Fun” of a particular people/culture/campus group? Even if it is not, will people “go there“?
  • Would you be willing to send photos of your event to your parents, your inter/national office, the campus newspaper, or your college President?

All Fun No Foul: Creative yet inoffensive party themes

Taken straight from the party planning archives of actual colleges and universities, these are some of the best themes we’ve seen:

  • Heroes and Villains
  • Disco Party (decade themes)
  • Pajama Jam
  • Mardi Gras
  • Toga! Toga!
  • Famous Couples
  • Winter Wonderland (snow party)
  • Safari
  • Rodeo
  • Movie themes
  • Mad Men or other television show themes
  • Viva Las Vegas
  • Castaway/Shipwrecked
  • Sports Bar (sporting event themes)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • “P” is for Party (alphabet themes)
  • Party like a Rock Star (celebrity themes)
  • Once Upon a Time (fairy tale themes)
  • Casino Night
  • April Fool’s Day Party
  • Fire and Ice
  • Superheroes
  • My Tie (mystery match-up themes)
  • Kat in the Hat
  • Outer Space/Aliens
  • Premiere (Hollywood theme)
  • New Year’s Eve Again
  • Night Out on the Town (city or downtown theme)
  • Under the Sea (ocean theme)

The following are not policies, rules, or punishable restrictions. They are simply suggestive measures and guidelines to help you and your chapters think about the way you represent yourselves to the larger campus community.

Themes to avoid:

  • Blackface
  • Men dressing like women
  • Using the word “Ho” in the title of your event
  • Themes with a binge drinking connotation
  • Wearing letters that are not your own
  • Culturally insensitive themes