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October 07, 2015

Despite backlash, Spirit predicts Jenner costume will be hot trend for Halloween

New Jersey company says costume is meant to “celebrate” Jenner, not mock her

Halloween retailer Spirit has predicted that its Caitlyn Jenner costume will be one of the “hottest looks and costume trends” for the holiday, in spite of backlash from LGBTQ groups that call the outfit offensive.

“I’m afraid that people are going to use this as an escape to clown trans women,” said Naiymah Sanchez, who is organizing the fifth annual Philly Trans* March this Saturday.

However, Sanchez also acknowledged that “Caitlyn is a public figure (and) the costume is portraying how individuals want to dress up for Halloween.”

Spirit, based in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, is offering a corset outfit based on Jenner’s famous Vanity Fair cover for $49.99 and the matching Caitlyn Wig for $16.99, alongside a track suit costume meant to celebrate Jenner’s Olympic career. The online description of the costume enthuses, “Celebrate an American icon in this glamorous Caitlyn Corset and Wig Set!” 

Company spokesperson Trisha Lombardo emphasized that Spirit created the corset as a tribute to Jenner, not a joke.

“For us, at Spirit Halloween, we create a wide range of costumes...based on celebrities, public figures, heroes and superheroes. In 2015, Caitlyn Jenner is really all of the above," said Lombardo.

Spirit will sell the corset in the women’s section of all of its 1,165 stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. The model for the costume “is a female,” said Lombardo – unlike some other websites selling Jenner corset costumes that adopted a more mocking tone by using hairy men as models. 

In Spirit’s list of top costume trends for Halloween 2015, released on Tuesday, Jenner got top billing alongside pop culture icons like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars characters and Disney princesses. The company also listed outfits inspired by Mexico’s “Day of the Dead” as a hot trend. (Spirit declined to share sales numbers.)

However, an online petition demanding that Spirit take down the Caitlyn Corset has gotten more than 18,000 signatures.

“Caitlyn Jenner is a hero and celebrated in modern day culture, but that doesn't excuse the exploitation and transphobia you'll be committing this Halloween,” wrote genderqueer activist Addison Rose Vincent, who argued that, whatever the intent of the company, people will buy the costume to “make fun of her and our community.”

Vincent added that it is “insensitive and deplorable” to make fun of transgender women, who are “being murdered at such a high rate.”

On Tuesday, in fact, a transgender woman was killed in Philadelphia. Police said that a group of men attacked 22-year-old Kiesha Jenkins, a graduate of West Philadelphia High School and Temple University, and one of them shot her twice.

When asked if Spirit expected any backlash over the costume, Lombardo said, "From our end, we did it to celebrate, so on our end, we've done it in a celebratory manner, so it's in a positive light for us."

Lombardo also confirmed that the company did not reach out to LGBT groups when designing the costume, nor to Caitlyn Jenner herself.

However, Jenner told the "Today" show last month that she has no problem with the outfit.

"I'm in on the joke. No, I don't think it's offensive at all,” she told Matt Lauer. “I know the community does, and they've gotten a lot of criticism for doing it. I think it's great.”

Her one request: If you’re going to wear a Caitlyn Jenner costume, make it work.

“That was a serious bustier on the cover of Vanity Fair. I mean, at least get some good clothes,” she joked.