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Tight replaces fright in adult costumes

By Bryan Long

This year's trend: More glamorous, less gruesome.
This year's trend: More glamorous, less gruesome.

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Frightfully large numbers
41.1 million: Number of children between the ages of 5 and 14, the prime trick-or-treating age
18.5 billion:  Dollars spent on candy in 2000
995: Number of U.S. chocolate makers
 831.2 million: Pounds of pumpkins grown in the U.S. last year

Source: The Associated Press

(CNN) -- Adult Halloween costumes are getting a bit more R-rated this year as blood and gore gives way to biceps and bosoms.

Terror attacks and sniper shootings seem to be keeping the more gruesome costumes on the shelf as grown-ups turn to racier gear. From she-devils to Red Hot Riding Hood, costumes for the older set are becoming increasingly raunchy, according to store owners and rankings of Internet searches.

"Women are into the sexy look. Men want to look studly," says Gregg Kerns, president of Costume Holiday House in Fremont, Ohio.

While police officers and firefighters were popular costume choices last year in the wake of September 11, this year's Everyday-Hero wear is a little more revealing. Police officer outfits are still hot -- but this year with a capital 'H' and some decolletage.

"It's Victoria Secret-type stuff," explains Paul Blum, owner of Manhattan's Abracadabra Superstore. "A little more sexy than last year's cops and a little more revealing than a French maid."

Spider-Man tights are selling briskly, too.

This doesn't surprise Jack Santino, a professor in Bowling Green State University's Department of Popular Culture and author of several books on Halloween and other holidays.

"Generally speaking, the whole point of adult masquerades is that you get to do something that you don't normally do," Santino said. Traditionally that means placing graves in the front lawn and wooden stakes through the heart. But maybe not so much this year.

"People might want to shy away from being the ax murderer. Gore is still seen as unacceptable. Adults are hoping to break the rules and do a little wish fulfillment," Santino said.

This might explain the popularity of skimpily-clad Wonder Woman, who has joined Spider-Man as one of the top 10 searches on both Lycos and AskJeeves.

But even with the growing popularity of more revealing adult costumes, at least one store-owner warns the risque looks aren't for everyone.

"Of course people who shouldn't be wearing sexy stuff want to wear something sexy," Kerns said. "I look at them and think, 'Please don't put that on.'"

Children look to TV, movies

Adults may be steering their children away from violent costumes as well.

Nancy Burrows, manager of Washington D.C.'s Paper Store, said sales slumped during the sniper manhunt and when the shoppers returned parents seemed to guide their children's purchases more.

Hollywood characters and classics are back for kids.
Hollywood characters and classics are back for kids.

"I've heard two parents tell their children they wouldn't buy ninja costumes because of the violence," she said. "One tried to explain 'No costumes that promote violence,' but then said the mask might not leave enough room to see."

Popular choices for children this year include cartoon character SpongeBob Squarepants, Spider-Man, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Harry Potter and Yu Gi Oh!, a spiked-hair Japanese cartoon character.

Santino says it's a return to Hollywood's dominance after last year's move to cowboys and princesses.

"People don't think it's inappropriate to wear those costumes this year. It's almost a return to life as we're used to it," he said.

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