— -- This is the second year in a row Elizabeth Mangan has had to change her planned Halloween costume because she couldn't find an appropriate outfit.
Mangan, a mom of two boys, 3 and 1, said it's impossible to find a non-sexy police officer costume -- the police officer idea was her 3-year-old son's -- for sale.
The New York City mom said she shopped at stores in her Upper East Side neighborhood and online. "There was nothing I could even tone down," she said. She then decided she would be a pilot, which is what she's dressing her 1-year-old as. Still too sexy.
It's not the first time Mangan had to change costumes. "Last year my son wanted to be Superman and I was planning to be Super Woman. Every costume was obscene."
Mangan and her son ended up being football players. She had to borrow her husband's jersey.
There's nothing necessarily wrong with a sexy costume, said Eileen L. Zurbriggen, professor of psychology at the University of Santa Cruz. The issue is when there are no non-sexy alternatives. "It sends a message," Zurbriggen said, "that's the only thing about a woman that's important."
A check of police officer costumes on the Spirit Halloween web site, which claims to be the largest seasonal Halloween retailer in North America and was one of the places Mangan said she checked, showed that every police-officer-themed costume in the woman's section was indeed sexy and not reflective of how a real police officer would dress.
The men's section, on the other hand, had a mix of both sexy and non sexy options.
Manga had considered buying a man's costume. But because of her build, the man's costume would not fit correctly.
Zurbriggen said a woman being forced to buy a man's costume was "ridiculous."
"It tells women you are either sexy or you are not a woman," she said, adding that many women operate in the role of police officer, nurse or maid in real life every day.
"These are really stripper costumes," Zurbriggen said. And while there's nothing wrong with pushing boundaries on Halloween, she said, trick-or-treating with the kids isn't the time most moms want to do that.
Costume makers, Zurbriggen said, could be missing a big market.
"Sure a mom can make her own costume and use it as a teachable moment," said Zurbriggen. "but I'm sympathetic to moms who just don't have the time."
Because they're busy being moms, and hundreds of other jobs like police officers, pilots, nurses and more. And while a mom could certainly buy a witch costume with a long cape or a princess costume with a long dress, the non-sexy costume options are far more limited for women then they are for men.
"It's like if you want dress up for Halloween you have to be trampy," said Mangan. "It's absurd."
This year, she's planning to be a black widow superhero.
"At least it has full coverage."