Halloween Cultural Costumes (My Thoughts)

Continuing on with my last post, the following is my personal thoughts and do not represent what other people of my background or those who share similar experiences think.

About Me

First of all, I’m a mixed kid with tanned skin, Asian eyes but multi-brown (many shades) hair. Some know I’m mixed, others see an Asian girl.

I have German heritage but none of my recent ancestors are from Bavaria. I lived in Munich last year and I’ve always loved dresses, so of course, I bought a dirndl.

Although I’m part Chinese, I’ve never had my own Qipao. I think it’s gorgeous and I’d love to have one someday.

My Thoughts about Others

When I see non-Germans, whether White or not, wearing dirndls and lederhosen:

First of all, it’s the Bavarians and the Austrians who call the dirndls and lederhosen their ‘national costume’. Germany is often incorrectly portrayed as a large sausage-eating blond(e) wearing a dirndl or lederhosen.

During Oktoberfest, everyone wears the traditional costume. In Munich, even when it wasn’t Oktoberfest, some people still wear the traditional costume and it’s not considered unusual. I’ve seen people of all ethnicities wearing the traditional costume. At this point, it seems to be acceptable. The only costumes I’d consider offensive are the Halloween sexy costumes. Those you do not wear to Oktoberfest. End of story.

When I see non-Chinese/Cantonese/Taiwanese (etc.) wearing Qipaos:

I see the Chinese traditional costume (which is pretty modern. I believe it’s from the 1900s?) on non-Chinese/Cantonese, I think it’s just an alternative to a formal dress. Because the Qipao is form-fitting, it shows off the figure perfectly. If I see it worn on Halloween, I assume 1 of 3 things:

  1. Person is dressing up as Mulan
  2. Person wants an excuse to wear the Qipao
  3. Person is representing part of her culture

When I see traditional costumes worn by those who are not from that culture:

Growing up as a TCK, I thought traditional costumes are a free for all sort of thing. When I was 9, I was selected, along with a few British girls, to be part of the Diwali dance. We were provided costumes for the event.

While living in Munich, I went to an international church, which was dominantly African. Our German pastor sometimes wore a traditional African dress, which must’ve been given to her by the attendees or while she visited somewhere in Africa. By wearing it, she was not only showing respect but that she was one with them.
This is similar to a pastor at our church in Vancouver who, though Canadian, feels that he is African at heart.

There are so many examples out there. Yet if you can’t relate, well, unfortunately, you will not be able to understand that some people are actually not being offensive and that some are not feeling offended.

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Update: October 2013

After discussing with a fellow alumna of my university, I think it’s best to avoid cultural costumes on Halloween or carnivals and save them for other events. 🙂