Sexy Mr. Rogers, Sexy Bob Ross and the evolution of the sexy Halloween costume

PHOTO: A model is wearing Yandys "Sexy Mr. Rogers" costume.PlayYandy
WATCH The evolution of Halloween costumes have made it the sexiest holiday of the year

We’ve all seen sexy "fill-in-the-blank" costumes on Halloween. For lingerie company Yandy, it saw a business opportunity.

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The company has become one of the hottest costume makers and their sexy costumes have repeatedly become viral sensations.

Yandy offers dozens of varieties from the classics (Cher from "Clueless," SWAT Hottie) to the topical (fake news, White Claw) to the absurd (Sexy Mr. Rogers, Sexy Bob Ross).

"Did you laugh? Did you have a giggle at it? You know, that's our main goal," said Pilar Quintana-Williams, Yandy’s vice president of marketing. "What I want people to really understand is that it's a fun holiday, and that's what we're here to do is make sure that you go out there wearing what you want."

PHOTO: A model is wearing Yandys Sexy Mr. Rogers costume. Yandy
A model is wearing Yandy's "Sexy Mr. Rogers" costume.

Yandy’s Sexy Mr. Rogers costume is already a viral hit this year.

"I grew up with Mr. Rogers. So to do this is an honor and…I think it's a lighthearted costume," Quintana-Williams said. "I'm just having fun, that's all. That's all this is. That's all Halloween is to a lot of people. It's just a day to kind of escape it and have a blast."

The Sexy Bob Ross, modeled after the famed television painter, comes complete with a "Peapod the Pocket Squirrel" sidekick attached to the shoulder of a denim top and super short shorts that Quintana-Williams referred to as "thorts."

They're "so short they could be a thong," she said.

A model is wearing Yandys Sexy Boss Ross costume. Yandy
A model is wearing Yandy's "Sexy Boss Ross" costume.

"I think [Bob Ross] had all the elements there to be sexy," she said. "We just made his shorts or his jeans really, really, really short. And we added the [paint] palette… I think we nailed it."

Quintana-Williams said her team is thinking about Halloween costume ideas every day throughout the year. They keep a running list of ideas, she said, and they take suggestions from everyone inside the company.

"Everybody from warehouse to [human resources] is always giving us ideas," she said. "The husbands and wives of Yandy are always giving us ideas."

Quintana-Williams said there are some ideas that will end up on the cutting room floor. This year, those included a "Game of Thrones" coffee cup costume, which plays off the viral moment in the show's last season when fans noticed a stray coffee cup inadvertently left in the shot near actress Emiliar Clarke. Another idea that Quintana-Williams said was nixed: an Elizabeth Holmes costume.

"I think everybody was pushing this year for a 'Game of Thrones' coffee cup, which I thought was very clever, but I wasn't quite sure how he was going to pull that one off," she said. "Elizabeth Holmes. Great idea, but you could probably pull that one off at home. You know wig, red lipstick and a dress."

"Nightline" visited Yandy’s offices in Phoenix weeks before Halloween. At the time, Kylie Jenner’s "Rise and Shine" video had gone viral. So, Yandy’s designers went to work, and within minutes the costume kit went live.

Yandy created this costume kit after Kylie Jenners Rise and Shine video went viral. Yandy
Yandy created this costume kit after Kylie Jenner's "Rise and Shine" video went viral.

"We are designing costumes for women," Quintana-Williams said. "A majority of us are women here. So we're having fun. We're coming up with ideas. It's a laugh."

Eighteen- to 24-year-old consumers are most likely to celebrate Halloween, with nearly nine out of 10 planning to do so this year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). That's an 84% increase from a decade ago.

Sexy Halloween costumes have been around for years and are not a new trend – remember that famous Halloween costume line from 2004’s “Mean Girls”?

But Heather McDonald, a comedian, writer and host of the "Juicy Scoop" podcast, which dives into pop culture, suggests that social media has pushed the boundaries of what can be turned into a "sexy" costume.

"I would describe the trend of sexy Halloween dressing as something that has been going on for at least 20 years but has gotten to the extreme in the last five," McDonald said. "Social media has made it huge. … It used to be just the people at the party would see your outfit. Now, you're posting it to your thousands of followers."

The NRF says social media is an enormous driver for Halloween costume and decoration ideas, and that spending on Halloween items is expected to reach a near-record amount this year, according to its annual survey. For 2019, NRF predicts shoppers will spend an average $86.27 on Halloween purchases, down just slightly from last year’s record $86.79. That works out to $8.8 billion in total spending, down from last year’s $9 billion.

Sexy Halloween costumes have inspired dozens of think pieces from critics and supporters. McDonald said she doesn’t see them going away any time soon.

"You know what I say? A true feminist just does what she wants to do," McDonald said. "She's not influenced by her friend. She's not influenced by someone on Twitter or someone on the TV. I think people should embrace it and have fun."

Professors Lauri Hyers and Erin Hipple of West Chester University in Pennsylvania have been studying the evolution of sexy Halloween costumes and how they can impact women. Hyers is a psychology professor, whereas Hipple is a professor of social work.

Along with their students, they studied over 1,600 Halloween costumes sold by major retailers and found that over 90% of women’s costumes featured on these retailers’ websites had elements that were sexual in nature, they said.

"I had my students one semester go online and try to see how many costumes they had to look at before they could find a costume that wasn't sexualizing or objectifying." Hyer said. "For the boys costumes…you only had to look at the first one and you found it. But with many of these companies, my students had to go to [page] 50, 120, before they could finally find one. … Even if a woman wants to do something different, she can't."

Hipple said the issue is not about taking away a woman's right to wear a sexy costume.

"Sexual agency is powerful and empowering for many people and I think it's really important…for us to stop making appearance comments and shaming folks for the way that they dress," Hipple said. "But the purpose of our research…is not about restricting options. It's about expanding them, and I think also thinking about what our definition of sexy is, because marketers are capitalizing on a very rigid definition of what sexy is."

Yandy, for one, is certainly capitalizing on this. Alicia Thompson, the director of brand marketing for the company, said they have filled over 125,000 Halloween orders this year and they expect to max out at around 200,000 — the costumes vary in price from about $20 to $100.

The company’s most popular costume is SWAT Hottie. It's the costume Quintana-Williams says "pays the bills" at Yandy.

But Quintana-Williams said they offer "safe for work" and other non-revealing costumes as well.

Yandy says it offers covered up costumes as well, such as this pumpkin costume. Yandy
Yandy says it offers 'covered up' costumes as well, such as this pumpkin costume.

"We're telling all the girls out there to own your sexy. What that means for you," Quintana-Williams said. "If it's more coverage, it's more coverage. If it's not, then it's not. But I don't think that there's any pressure for anybody to do what they don't want to do."

Card Queen is another costume Yandy points to as an example of one of their more covered up options. Yandy
"Card Queen" is another costume Yandy points to as an example of one of their more "covered up" options.

This view hasn’t kept the company from facing criticism for offering costumes some critics felt went too far. A sexy "Handmaid’s Tale" costume, based of the popular Hulu series, was pulled last year after it sparked backlash.

"It wasn't what we wanted our season to be focused on. I mean, again, this is a fun time. Let's not make it a darker time," Quintana-Williams said. "I think that we've done a really good job in handling our situation."

Controversy aside, Quintana-Williams said their goal is to encourage women to have fun and wear whatever they feel comfortable with.

"I am not comfortable in a thort, but many people are," she said. "So, you know, do you… Nothing's worse than going out there on Halloween and being uncomfortable in that costume. So be comfortable. Wear what you need to wear."