A “se.xy” handmaiden’s Halloween outfit inspired by Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel and now TV show The Handmaid’s Tale could have been yours for a red hot second. The outfit – sold by United states lingerie company Yandy – was declared “offensive” by the internet. Of course.
Yandy duly removed the Sexy Halloween Costumes For Women, saying: “Over the last several hours, it is obvious that the ‘Yandy Brave Red Maiden Costume’ will be seen as a symbol of women’s oppression, rather than an expression of women’s empowerment.” Inside the true spirit of Halloween, eliminating the costume from sale was actually a misstep. The costume casts one of the spookiest images feasible for modern women. The spectre of any handmaiden is really haunting, more so than a ghoul or ghost or zombie.
For those unfamiliar with Atwood’s nightmarish world, a handmaiden is a woman who may have an intact reproductive system within an era of growing infertility. Handmaidens are forced to carry the offspring of the ruling class. They wear distinctive red dresses and white bonnets that obscure their faces.
The handmaidens are ladies who are valued just for their reproductive function, they may have no autonomy, and are essentially raped each and every time these are assigned to bear a child. In Atwood’s dystopia, women generally aren’t able to read or write and are stuck in domestic roles. As Yandy highlights in their apology, handmaiden’s costumes (albeit canonical, non-s.exy versions) have already been donned around the world by protesters demanding greater rights for women. The costumes were utilized both in Ireland and Argentina to campaign for abortion rights, these were used in Britain to protest Donald Trump’s state visit, and they’ve been used across the US to protest several bills, like funding cuts to reproductive health centres. The idea is to draw in a parallel in between the way women are silenced in dystopian fiction and exactly how women in today’s political climate feel silenced on matters relating to their very own bodies. At some level, the dystopia is here now.
The Adult Halloween Costumes takes this iconic handmaiden image and propels it into the absurd. It shortens and tightens the figureless red robe and adds fishnet stockings and very high heel shoes. Not only does it connote an (all too real) world where girls have no say over their reproductive health, it also brings to the fore the truth that women are overtly se.xualised.
It’s easy to view why a lot of people wrote into Yandy proclaiming that it was offensive, but surely there’s also something darkly humorous about this too. It’s bizarre that somehow the world of retail is able to spin a story about oknqdh and misogyny into an empowering garment. The initial item description read: “An upsetting dystopian future has emerged where women no longer use a say. However, we say be bold and speak your brain in this particular exclusive Brave Red Maiden costume.” The irony astounds.
Past the laughter, whether or not they meant to or otherwise not, Yandy sold the perfect Sexy Halloween Costumes For Women. It mixes the puritanical reproductive coercion of The Handmaid’s Tale using the objectification and commercialisation of female bodies. It displays a dystopian reality that may be within our future, and may even describe our present. It’s a really scary method to observe Halloween.