Need a (really) last-minute costume idea? Go as historical birth control!
Why not use Halloween as an excuse to celebrate birth control through the ages?
Birth control has come a long way since the ancient Egyptians used crocodile dung. People have tried all sorts of contraceptives over the centuries, with varying degrees of success and safety.
In the early 1900s, diaphragms and cervical caps offered people with vaginas more control over their reproductive health. Then, the pill revolutionized birth control in the 1960s, giving women a convenient oral option. Today, we’ve got everything from patches and rings to implants and IUDs.
And in the post-Roe world we’re living in, birth control is more important than ever. That’s why we put together this list of Halloween costumes representing birth control through the ages. It’s a good reminder that we’re able to take care of ourselves, no matter what the legislation says.
1920s: Rhythm method flapper
Fertility awareness, also called the rhythm method, was officially “developed” in the 1920s, although people with uteruses had been tracking their menstrual cycles and planning their sexual activity accordingly for much longer. Many saw the rhythm method (as well other forms of birth control, like diaphragms and cervical caps) as liberating for people with vaginas, allowing them to have sex without the goal of getting pregnant. Of course, the rhythm method is not the most effective at preventing pregnancy when it’s not used correctly, leading to unplanned pregnancies.
To pull off this look, you’ll need a flapper dress, complete with fringe, sequins, and a dropped waist. Top it off with a stylish cloche hat, a long strand of pearls, fishnet stockings, and T-strap heels.
Now for the props—a pocket calendar to track your cycle and a sign that says, “Jitterbug, not babies!” will get the point across. You can even hand out condoms, which were also available at the time. When asked what you are, just flash that calendar and say, “I’m a flapper, not a mother, dear!”
1950s: Dior diaphragm
The 1950s were a time of glamor and postwar exuberance. Why not channel that era with a diaphragm costume? Diaphragms were a popular birth control method at the time: doctors started recommending them as the most effective form of pregnancy prevention in 1941.
To pull off this retro look, you’ll need a circular piece of thin, flexible rubber to represent the diaphragm itself. A hula hoop, Frisbee, or plastic platter will work well for this. Decorate the edge with rhinestones or sequins for a fancy touch. Attach it to your back if it’s bigger or to your head, like a hat, if it’s smaller.
Add a silk or satin robe, negligee, or dress in a bold 1950s print. Floral, polka dot, or cherry patterns were popular and epitomized the era. Pair with a silk scarf tied around your head for a pin-up vibe.
Finish the look with exaggerated makeup, including red lips, cat eyeliner and rosy cheeks. Go for an elaborate updo for the full effect.
When asked about your creative getup, flash a sly smile and tell them, “A lady never reveals her secrets.” Your coy and carefree attitude will transport everyone back to a time when the future seemed bright and boundless. Rock that diaphragm! The night is yours.
1960s: Free love pill
The 60s were a pivotal time for reproductive rights, partially because the invention of the birth control pill gave people with vaginas more control over their fertility and sexuality.
In order to dress as the pill, you’ll need a large white fabric circle, felt letters to spell “The Pill,” double-sided tape or fabric glue, and a headband. Cut a circle of white fabric or felt, or use a paper plate. Use double-sided tape or fabric glue to attach the felt letters spelling “the pill” across the middle. Attach the circle to a headband, and you’re set!
For the rest of you, grab a psychedelic patterned dress, fishnet stockings, peace sign necklace, and round sunglasses.
1980s: Neon Condom
To pull off this retro 80s look, start with a skintight spandex outfit; the brighter the better. Electric blue, hot pink, screaming orange—channel your inner Jane Fonda and go bold. Accessorize with sweatbands, leg warmers, and a side ponytail or teased updo.
For the pièce de résistance, fashion a giant, exaggerated condom out of neon fabric or felt. (Condoms have been around for a while, but their effectiveness at preventing the spread of HIV make them particularly emblematic of the 80s and 90s!) Sew or glue the material into a long, rounded sleeve shape to slip over your body, like a thin, neon sleeping bag. Use paillettes, rhinestones or puffy paint to add the reservoir tip and brand name of your choice—just keep it “ribbed for her pleasure!”
Y2K: Glitter Plan B
Y2K is in right now, so why not go as the iconic emergency contraception (which was released in 1999), Plan B. Find some glittery silver hot pants or a miniskirt and throw on a crop top. Write “Plan B” across your midriff in sparkly letters. Carry around some mints in a Plan B box to complete the look and hand them out to anyone who asks what you’re supposed to be.
Add fishnets, thigh high silver boots and space buns for extra Y2K realness. You’ll be the shiniest reminder of how far we’ve come in reproductive health and how far we still have to go.
Whether you go as the pill, an IUD, or a diaphragm, you’re sure to spark some interesting conversations at your Halloween party this year. And who knows, you might even educate a few people on the various contraceptive options out there in a memorable way. When else do you have an excuse to walk around as a giant neon condom or a Y2K Plan B?
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