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'Sexy anorexia' Halloween costume controversy
October 7th, 2011
07:26 AM ET

'Sexy anorexia' Halloween costume controversy

It’s hard to imagine a deadly disorder being translated into a Halloween costume, let alone a sexy Halloween costume. Just when you thought it couldn't get any more inappropriate than sexy Cookie Monster, a costume has come along that reaches a whole new level of just plain wrong.

Anna Rexia.

The Anna Rexia costume features a black bodysuit style dress with a glittery, silk-screened skeleton print, bone headband, heart name tag, measuring tape ribbon belt, and the most shocking accessory of all - a matching measuring tape choker! We're not sure if the costume manufacturer intended for the choker to be a pun.

Critics say the costume makes a joke out of a deadly eating disorder. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Up to 10 million females and one million males in the U.S. suffer from diseases such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa.

CNN spoke to Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, about the controversy surrounding Anna Rexia. Grefe was disturbed to hear that some retailers had actually sold out of the costume, but she's relieved that some stores are not selling it anymore.

"I find it just appalling," said Grefe. "Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and to think that someone that understood an eating disorder would actually buy this costume is an outrage."

Grefe said that only someone with a "sick mind" would purchase the costume, likening it to dressing up as a war veteran missing arms and legs or someone afflicted with melanoma.

"To me they're all the same," said Grefe, who pointed out that anorexia, like melanoma, is not a choice. "Talk about the ultimate in poor taste. That costume represents a sick perspective on this illness."

While the costume is still being sold - albeit by scant few vendors - the manufacturer, Dreamgirl, discontinued it a couple of years ago. Anna Rexia was initially designed back in 2007 and Dreamgirl’s director of marketing, Alicia Brockwell, told CNN that the designer is no longer with the company.

“We understand that some people will not find the dark humor funny,” said Brockwell. “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.”

Grefe said that even if the costume was meant to be a joke, it is no laughing matter.

"There is absolutely nothing funny about anorexia," continued Grefe. "If you saw an 8-year-old kid on a feeding tube you'd be surprised. Anorexia is not a choice - at all. The wrong people go on a diet, they lose five pounds but they like it too much and they lose another five pounds and lose all sense of reality."

Grefe also pointed out the physical consequences of anorexia.

"Eating disorders are mental and the consequences are physical," she said, pointing out that related health issues can include early osteoporosis, kidney failure, digestive system ailments, renal disease, and more. "If you're not feeding yourself, you're not feeding your brain and your body - and your body needs the fuel."

Grefe also urges anyone with an eating disorder to dial the helpline at 800-931-2237 or visit www.NationalEatingDisorders.org

Multiple costume retailers have pulled the costume from shelves and online stores amid complaints, but several vendors still carry Anna Rexia – one online description of Anna Rexia includes the phrase “You can never be too rich or too thin.”

Another online shop’s description reads, "If Anna Rexia doesn't want to put it in her mouth there is nothing you can say to change her mind. You can stop trying to sell her on the point that there aren't any carbs and it's all protein because Anna Rexia just doesn't want anything to do with it. Make no bones about it this girl is as disciplined as they can get. Anna Rexia costume is anything but bare bones! Costume includes headband, choker neckband, removable ‘Anna Rexia’ badge and ribbon tie belt. If you're starving for attention, this costume will be sure to put you on top of the world."

As Eve Vawter from XOJane.com puts it, "Yep, you too could have been a sexy girl with a disease with a super high mortality rate for Halloween."

What do you think of Anna Rexia? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Filed under: Mental Health • Mind and body • Nutrition

soundoff (212 Responses)
  1. dctrtuba

    This is horrible, and I feel it needs to be publicized on television. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and our society is making fun of it? What's next, a cancer costume??? THIS IS CRAP; this is why people get sued - for stupidity like this.

    November 16, 2011 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lillian

      Its just a costume. They have fat people costumes, obesity is a eating disorder. I almost died from anorexia a couple years ago, and Im not offended.

      September 13, 2012 at 11:55 | Report abuse |
    • Tasha Funk

      This is about as offensive as that pug dressed as the Miley Cyrus wrecking ball. I had an eating disorder for a large part of my life and this in no way offends me. it's a Halloween costume. no one gets offended when people dress up as murders. think about it what's funny about people killing people. grow up.

      October 24, 2013 at 21:04 | Report abuse |
    • grotlegrovyle

      I'm glad for those who replied who have the composure to not be offended by this sort of thing- good on you folks for not being put down. But Halloween is supposed to be a fun time, and by sticking up for costumes like these, you risk hurting a lot of people who aren't at that level just yet. Halloween is NOT a day when people struggling from these disorders want to be reminded of it, especially in this romanticized way. I've never suffered from an eating disorder, but when I see this costume I'm reminded of all of my friends who have/still are, and it kind of makes me want to curl up into the fetal position under my desk.

      November 3, 2013 at 15:27 | Report abuse |
  2. Sammie

    Although I think it is dumb and would never purchase it, I am not going to be outraged enough to form a campaign and have the costume pulled.

    Whatever happened to freedom of speech? Welcome to the dumbing down of America where everything and anything that offends can have a huge lawsuit slapped on it! Yay Idiocracy and PC terminology! grrr

    December 7, 2011 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Carley

    how insulting

    January 25, 2012 at 20:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. sexy halloween costumes

    Halloween costume controversy ,The Anna Rexia costume features a black bodysuit style dress with a glittery, many companies are manufacturing this types of cloths and really thankfull to this information halloween program is conduct in summer.

    March 3, 2012 at 05:20 | Report abuse | Reply
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    March 4, 2012 at 01:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Erika

    I thought this was very cute i gbouht it for my son when he was a baby for his first Halloween. The fabric is very thin and feels like it could rip easy, the foam peas keep falling off and they kept getting in my sons face the real size of this would be more like 4-6 months way to big for a 0 month old baby. the hat was itchy on my son so we had to put another hat under it. i thought it was cute but i really didn't think it was worth it

    March 4, 2012 at 04:48 | Report abuse | Reply
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  11. Lillian

    I have an eating disorder but I find this costume humourous. We have costumes for fat people, old people, different races... this isnt an issue. Get real, media. its a COSTUME.

    September 13, 2012 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Npryan

      I understand want you are saying but at the same time it can cause so influence on young minds, like many things in our society. Yes it look like a sexy skeleton at first glance, but its all based on the advertising. To call it Anna Rexia, really!?!!? The problem is how they CHOOSE to advertise the costume.

      PS Obisety is an eating disorder! I don't agree with corroborations, businesses, the media and government using any issue and/or disorder to their advantage.

      October 22, 2013 at 08:04 | Report abuse |
    • Kristin

      you are sick.

      October 22, 2013 at 14:42 | Report abuse |
  12. rebekah

    this is so ignorant and disturbing, i have struggled with anorexia for almost half my life and have almost died MANY times. this should not be a joke, did you know that anorexia is one of the highest causes of death for women 12-25. i am hurt majorly by this costume, why the heck would anyone want to be anorexic? it destroys lives both physically and emotionally. why would anyone enjoy starving themselves to death? i HATE that i do it, but its not a choice, its a REAL illness.

    October 17, 2012 at 20:01 | Report abuse | Reply
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  14. Christine

    Oh and you forgot to ad the feeding tube up that models nose, self-harm scars, hair-loss wig, pale make-up, blue-lips, red blotchy face (from all the crying of course), hospital identification bracelet, hidden food in pockets, white nail polish to paint spots on your nails, wheelchair to be transported in, and IV needle in the arm.

    This costume needs to be banned immediately.

    January 2, 2013 at 05:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. sexy costumes

    fat people can also look good if they choose dress which suits there body , dress is like a part of your body choose it carefully to look sexy and gracefull.

    May 21, 2013 at 11:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. The Man

    I dont care what any of you have to say, this lady is a smokeshow in that costume please keep this on the market!

    September 6, 2013 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kristin

      You are sick.

      October 22, 2013 at 14:39 | Report abuse |
  17. Jennifer Ouellette

    Why is their a controversy? It is disgusting that somebody designed and sells a Halloween costume that both glorifies and mocks a disease that has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. If you would be offended by a cancer patient costume that included a bald wig and an IV pole to drag around (and I hope we all would), you should be offended by this.

    October 21, 2013 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Shannon

    This is just so sad/terrible. I wrote a quick poemish thing because anger fuels passion, right?

    I decided to write this poem thingie about that Halloween costume. I figured – anger fuels passion, so here we go!! It is a rough draft!

    Anna Rexia, a Halloween costume, advertising, “You can never be too rich or too thin.”
    This costume so shocking, so appalling, there are no words to even begin.

    A severe mental disorder that holds millions captive, with the highest mortality rate,
    Everyday men and women lose their lives; what sick company thought this Halloween costume would be great?

    Sufferers and loved ones find no ounce of humor in this outfit whatsoever,
    As they seek help, seek treatment, desperately holding on; nothing about this costume was clever.

    Glittery skeleton print, a bone headband, and heart nametag to glamorize a sickness,
    Measuring tape belt and measuring tape choker,
    Repulsed with the values and morals that mission such a business.

    No laughing to be made, found no joking or dark humor,
    I am terrified and saddened for those who are the buying consumers.

    “They are sensitive to the topic it addresses,” stated Dreamgirl’s director of marketing.
    “Halloween is an eccentric and irreverent holiday for people to express themselves in a myriad of ways.”
    Well, are you aware, are you ignorant, of the deadly message this costume supports; the message it so clearly relays?

    Although Halloween can be a time of creativity, of expression,
    Eating disorders are serious, a deadly, life-threatening obsession.

    Anorexia,
    Bulimia,
    Every which shape and form of an eating disorder,
    Please know,
    Please hear the commonly misunderstood belief – it is not a choice,
    It is real, it is cunning and relentless.
    So please help spread the word,
    Support those suffering and their loved ones,
    Please, just please help give it all voice.

    October 21, 2013 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Kristin

    The designer of this costume is mentally sick. How dare he/she make a costume of a deathly disorder and call it a joke. I personally have suffered from both bulimia and anorexia since the age of 13 and am now 25. I still suffer. This costume makes me sick. It really makes me want to cry. I'm baffled right now. I can't wrap my mind around the idea of even thinking this costume is okay or acceptable. The designer should be slapped in the face over and over again until her jaw breaks so she can experience what not eating feels like. I hope she never hears the end of this.

    October 22, 2013 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Andrea

    They should sell the costume with a feeding tube accesory. I have many, many friends who suffer from anorexia nervosa. The sad truth is its a harrowing, debilitating, mental condition that without proper treatment (which many insurance companies reguse to cover) very frequently leads to long term organ damage and even death.

    October 22, 2013 at 22:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. anonymous

    This is disgusting, they may have fat costumes but not for Halloween. The name of the costume is f***ing revolting, might as well be a pro anorexia site. anorexia CAN NEVER be sexy, it's an illness and has a higher death rate than most physical illnesses such as cancer.

    October 23, 2013 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. bwtchd 13

    I am disgusted by this costume. I suffered from anorexia and bulimia for 26 years and even though I am in recovery, every day brings challenges that could set me back. The costume is poking fun at a deadly disease. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all disorders. Whoever came up with this idea should be ashamed of themself. I hope they never have to watch a family member or close friend suffer through an eating disorder.

    October 23, 2013 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
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