Avoiding sexy costumes for kids

Story highlights

  • Some Halloween costumes marketed to young girls are too provocative, author says
  • Think comfort and safety when helping your child pick out a costume
  • If you are uncomfortable with the available choices, you can always make a costume

This story was updated from an article originally published in October 2011.

(CNN)I have no idea why my 3-year-old wants to be a cowboy for Halloween this year, because she won't tell me. That's OK. I don't need to know her reasoning to make it happen.

Thanks to her outdoorsy grandparents who live in the Colorado mountains, we already have the cowboy hat and handkerchief. We found a great pair of overalls on sale for $1.69 at the local Salvation Army store. But we still needed a cowboy jacket, a flannel shirt and boots. And whatever else might make her look like a 3-foot version of a cowboy.
Entering a temporary Halloween store that popped up in our town, I headed to the kids' costume section. The little girls' costumes seemed odd to me -- so many little skirts attached to superheroes and vampires. Even if I could find a cowgirl costume among all the girly-girl stuff, my girl would probably find a cowgirl skirt pointless. How would she ride her toy horse with a skirt? Sidesaddle?
    As I turned toward to the boys' section to continue the search for accessories, I saw the costume that scared me more than any vampire or ghost: the little black dress.
    Posed seductively like a brown-haired version of JonBenet Ramsey, the child model on the package looked 4 or 5 years old. I couldn't imagine the photographer asking that little girl to pose that way.
    Americans are expected to spend $2.5 billion on children's costumes in 2015, almost triple the $840 million they were expected to spend in 2010, according to a National Retail Federation survey. From my limited scan of Halloween costumes on sale this year, sexy costumes for younger girls are flooding the marke