“Anna Rexia” was the oh-no-you-didn’t costume of Halloween 2011.
News outlets and blogs extensively covered the outrage over the costume, which features a knit dress with glitter skeleton screenprint, bone-shaped headband, removable “Anna Rexia” badge and tape-measure belt. Retailers and online merchants who had the gall to carry the insensitive costume were pressured by angry consumers, anorexia sufferers and eating disorder awareness groups to take it off shelves. The whole affair was put to bed.
But two years later the costume is back and available for sale on a niche Halloween site that carries costumes from a company called Dreamgirls International, among others, with the description, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” Now the same people and groups who were up in arms the first time around are back with renewed, justified vitriol.
The story isn’t as it seems on the surface, though. First, let’s take a look at the reaction Anna Rexia caused two years back.
In 2011, a Change.org petition was started by a member of an organization called SPARK, which calls “for grassroots mobilizing around the clear and present danger that sexualization poses to girls and young women.” It called for the removal of the costume on a site called HalloweenStore.com. The petition received just 267 supporters, but a message from the organizer revealed that was enough to accomplish the goal.
In less than 5 hours, our petition succeeded in getting HalloweenStore.com to remove this vile costume from its site AND from their shelves, promising, “I have removed the costume Anna Rexia from my store and will never sell it again.”
At the same time a location of Ricky’s NYC drew criticism for carrying the costume and immediately took it off shelves, claiming they weren’t even supposed to be carrying it anymore.
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Now, in 2013, Twitter and Facebook users who have heard about the resurgence of this costume are outraged again. Searches on both networks revealed statuses including links to the new HalloweenParty13.com listing, a 2011 Feministing post from when the controversy originated and a new Change.org petition, which was created on Monday.
The petition, called “HalloweenParty13.com: Stop marketing and producing “Anna Rexia” costume” already has more than 15,000 supporters, and they’re demanding a response from the site.
But it seems that perhaps the anger should actually be aimed at the original manufacturer, Dreamgirls International, who in a previous statement claimed they stopped making it amid the uproar.
“We understand that some people will not find the dark humor funny,” said Alicia Brockwell, Dreamgirl’s director of marketing. “Or that they are sensitive to the topic it addresses. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and would never want to cause harm to anyone. Dreamgirl is a company run by women for women. Halloween is an eccentric and irreverent holiday for people to express themselves in a myriad of ways. While some people may not like a particular costume – it is a matter of taste and personal discretion.”
UPDATE: We reached out to Dreamgirls International and received a reply from Director of Marketing Lar Hovsepian. She says the costume was last seen in their line in 2007, and was discontinued due to poor sales and bad reactions from vendors. According to Hovsepian, a new ordering system was installed 3-4 years ago, and it has no record of Anna Rexia being sold during that time period.
As a wholesaler, Dreamgirls designs and manufactures their costumes, and then distributes them to other vendors for sale. So even in 2011 when it initially erupted, apparently production had already ceased. “At this point it’s out of our control,” Hovsepian said.
HalloweenParty13.com is “under construction,” but here’s the odd ordering page that you’d find if you pulled all the right threads:
We tried to reach out to HalloweenParty13.com multiple times. But the email addresses listed on their contact page bounced back — including one to the creepy firstname.lastname@example.org — and the phone number led to a cell phone belonging to someone named Jim with a Kentucky area code and a full mailbox. (The site also now appears to be “under construction” when you go directly to HalloweenParty13.com, instead of going to the ambiguous yahoo.net link being circulated around the Internet.)
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When we tried to purchase the costume, it took us to a secure payment page. This page listed the actual vendor as dreamgirl-halloween.com, but when we tried to visit that domain, it didn’t exist.
The other possibility is that this is just the work of a depraved prankster (or joker, as it were) who put up the costume to get a rise out of a community that has a proven track record of coming out in full force in defense of its victims. The Better Business Bureau issued a warning to consumers to be wary of pop-up Halloween websites, which may try to take advantage of people looking for the perfect sexy ladybug costume.
When shopping at seasonal, temporary Halloween stores, and especially at the last-minute, it’s important to exercise caution. Consumers need to be aware of retail red flags and to read the fine print to avoid nightmares with fly-by-night costume vendors.
At the time of the original controversy, Lynn Grefe, President and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association said, “Talk about the ultimate in poor taste. That costume represents a sick perspective on this illness.”
Agreed. And the only thing that would be in even poorer taste would be trying to continue selling these costumes, when it’s been made abundantly clear that this “eccentric” Halloween expression is unwanted.
People sensitive to the issue won’t really have to worry about being confronted by it at their local supplier or favorite online Halloween store. This is either the work of a scam artist, a prankster or a troll with a back order, and you can barely even find it or pay for it securely. So, yes, the Anna Rexia costume is back, but maybe more so in spirit than reality.
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