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9 Nongirly Costume Ideas

by Kate Wight

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think a single day is sufficient to celebrate Halloween, and those who wish it could be observed every day. Luckily, there are some other times throughout the year when it’s considered acceptable to dress up in costume. They include:

  • Spirit Week in schools
  • Masquerade parties
  • A fan convention
  • A fancy dress party in the UK
  • A football game or other sporting event (for all intents and purposes, we consider body paint to be costume-adjacent at the very least)

But on occasions when you can wear a costume, you may be frustrated to discover how unnecessarily gendered certain costumes are. There’s a running joke that isn’t actually terribly funny about how anything can be a girl’s or woman’s Halloween costume if you just make it sexy enough. The stereotypical Sexy Nurse and Sexy Vampire costumes were already bad enough, but 2018’s Sexy Handmaid’s Tale costume was really something else. 

There’s nothing wrong with opting for a costume that amplifies beauty or expresses traditional concepts of femininity if that’s where your interests lie. But there are also many costume options that don’t rely on your gender presentation or your sex appeal. Here, we break down some creative costume ideas for Nongirly teens in a variety of styles:

Creepy Classic Costumes

Scary costumes are a hallmark of Halloween culture. These clever costumes pay homage to the holiday’s spooky roots:

Teenage Zombie

When I was a teenager, my parents pointed out that I had a lot of characteristics that made them suspicious I was secretly a zombie. Apparently being largely nocturnal and monosyllabic while slouching around in ratty secondhand clothes with a pack of similarly-attired friends made me seem “unsettling”. 

The good news is, this costume is relatively easy to DIY on a budget with items you already have around your house! Track down some online tutorials for inspiration. 

Gender Neutral Vampire

The great thing about a classic vampire costume is that it already blurs gender lines. Vampire costumes tend to feature similar color palettes no matter the gender of the wearer. You can expect lots of black alongside rich colors like burgundy and aubergine. Vampire costumes are often inspired by Victorian fashion, so they tend to feature highly ornamental fabrics like velvet and brocade. A tailored pantsuit accented by a dramatic cape has beautifully genderbendy possibilities.

Traditionally Feminine Costumes With a Twist

There are some costumes that you might automatically rule out as being too stereotypically girly.  But sometimes the best way to fight back against a stereotype is to flip it on its head. Here, we reinvent some girly costumes and make them distinctly Nongirly:

Modern-Day Disney Princess

Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to spend $80 on an itchy polyester princess dress. Instead, we encourage you to think about ways you can reinvent old-school characters and bring them into the modern era. Some ideas include:

  • Thoroughly Modern Merida: The character of Merida was already inclined to chafe against gender expectations. No doubt she’d approve of a modern-day makeover that did away with the dress altogether. Instead of her deep teal gown, don navy blue pants and a matching shirt that meets the expected dress code for archery tournaments. Finish the look with a red wig and an archery bow.
  • Princess Pursuing a PhD: Belle from Beauty and the Beast is characterized as a bookworm in both cartoon and live-action versions. It makes total sense that a modern-day Belle would end up in grad school. Instead of the iconic blue dress layered over a collared blouse, you could opt for a tailored denim pinafore over a long-sleeved tee. You could also trade in her usual sleek ponytail for a messy bun with pencils and highlighters stuck in it.       
  • Punk Rock Tinkerbell: While there’s some debate as to whether Tinkerbell really counts as a Disney princess, she’s undeniably a rebel. A punk rock reinterpretation of Tinkerbell’s style is honestly pretty on-brand. Body glitter, temporary tattoos, and some bad-ass boots can put a fun spin on a classic costume. 

Drag Queen

Another fun twist on the “girls dressing as royalty” trope would be to dress like your favorite drag queen. Dating back to ancient Greece, drag has been utilized as a way to challenge gender norms. Many drag queens don’t try to pass as cisgender women. Instead, they exaggerate performative femininity. Dressing as a drag queen could actually be a subversive way to push back against the gender narrative.  

Women Who Made History

Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich coined the popular phrase “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Girls are often socialized to be quiet and blend in and not make a fuss. Even when women do something world-changing, they often don’t get the credit they deserve. You can pay homage to some epic women from throughout history by emulating them in costume:

Anne Bonny and Mary Read

There are many well-known pirates from throughout history: Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, and Calico Jack are just a few of the bigger names. But what a lot of people don’t know is that several women sailed the high seas as well. Two of the most notorious women pirates were Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Not only did they flout gender expectations, but the two became close friends who both fought against rivals more ferociously than most men on their crew. This could be a great couples’ costume, but it would also be perfect for platonic BFFs.   

Amelia Earhart

This aviation pioneer was a trailblazer in every sense of the word. Her adventurous spirit has inspired countless young women over the years. Earhart is often remembered for her iconic attire, including a bomber jacket, a leather flying cap, and aviator goggles, making this a clever and easily identifiable costume.

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