UPDATE, 10.31.2011: Last week we published the post below about a World War II evacuee costume. Though we updated the post with a description of the British tradition of children dressing up for Evacuee Day, the response we are continuing to get regarding the post makes it clear we need to address the issue further.
When the photo of the costume reached our inbox, we were confused. Out of cultural context, it looked like what we originally reported it to be: a costume portraying a WWII refugee. We researched the costume, but ultimately did not find any sort of explanation. As such, we assumed this was yet another example of insensitive and offensive merchandise.
Soon after the post was published, blogger Nick Douglas posted about Evacuee Day, in which British students dress up as children who were evacuated to the country after London was bombed during WWII. As we quoted below, he explained: “UK primary school national curriculum says kids need to learn about significant British history. It also says small children learn about history best through empathy. ‘Empathise’ in the teaching of 5- and 6-year olds means ‘Dress up as’.” Others posited the outfit was meant to be that of the evacuee children from The Lion, The Witch, and Wardrobe, and that the generic name allowed the costume company to circumvent licensing fees.
Either way, it is clear we did not view this costume in the proper context.
The original post, including our update, is below.
Just when we thought some headway was being made with the whole offensive costume situation in this country, we came across the worst costume of all time. Are you going to be a World War II evacuee for Halloween?
This is a costume that exists! And it’s for little girls! Some company called Girls Fantasy is selling it, and it is the WORST! The costume in question involves a navy dress, 1940s-style flats, a beret, and a satchel with some sort of tag. IS THIS A JOKE?! All that’s missing is a yellow star.
The inspiration seems to be Anne Frank (who, for the record, never escaped the war and died in a concentration camp). Holocaust-related children’s costumes: bringing offensiveness to a whole new level. What’s next? War refugee duds? Child soldier uniforms? Awful. And because we’re mad, and this is somewhat related, read this after contemplating the costume below.
UPDATE: Blogger Nick Douglas posted this explanation to his Tumblr.
UK primary school national curriculum says kids need to learn about significant British history.
It also says small children learn about history best through empathy.
“Empathise” in the teaching of 5- and 6-year olds means “Dress up as”
So schools declare that they are having an “Evacuee Day”, “Victorian Day”, “Roman Britain Day” etc.
Parents get letter informing them that their little darling has to dress up as an Evacuee, Victorian child, Roman, etc.
Time-poor, stressed parents don’t want to have to spend ages researching and making said costume when they could be spending their time w/their actual child (or OK watching TV) (this doesn’t really apply for the Roman one because that costume is a sheet)
Internet search reveals readymade costume (see photo above)
Parents grumblingly shell out their £15 or so. All kids at school end up dressed identically. Costume company laughs all the way to the bank.