It was hotter than usual in the halls of lingerie turned sexy Halloween costume provider Yandy’s Phoenix-based office. CEO Chad Horstman had an idea for the popular e-retailer’s next barely-there endeavor, and his staff just wasn’t having it.
“I thought a sexy pizza costume was crazy,” said in-house design representative Pilar Quintana. “I don’t know if any girls want to go out with crust on her shoulders.”
But as the creator of the instantly iconic sexy watermelon costume (complete with midriff baring bite cutout), Horstman knew that the short costume with a cheesy yet seductive “v” and fashion forward crust shoulder pads (stuffed crust or regular? manufacturers tested both!) would be a hit.
“We were both on a diet at the time, so I said let’s make a bet,” he told TIME. If the $70 costume reached a certain sales number, Quintana would have to eat a whole large pizza, without any help, while wearing said sexy pizza costume at a pizzeria. Horstman offered to do the same.
The costume was premiered as a part of a sexy hamburger, french fry fast, food collection. It immediately made headlines and even a Daily Show appearance. Numbers soared.
“I’ll be literally eating my words this week,” Quintana said.
The Sexy and the Strange
Although the world of sexy Halloween costumes isn’t new, it is certainly getting increasingly bizarre. There’s a mass market for costumes you would never think to slap a “sexy” label on, from $120 orca whales to Burt and Ernie.
But the Yandy team doesn’t think the costumes’ wide variety or noteworthy success is strange at all. “Girls are always trying to one up each other,” Quintana said. “They are always trying to wear something no one is going to wear, so the creativity level has to go up from the French maid costume.”
Horstman, 35, left his job as a marketing consultant in 2005 to start Yandy with his brother Evan, a Boeing supply chain manager. While its initial focus was just online lingerie sales, he quickly saw a market for Halloween costumes.
Horstman said that the costumes started out as run of the mill concepts, “Like a dirty cop instead of a regular cop … maybe a border patrol agent.” So in 2010 he decided to take it to the next level with its own original line of furry, sexy animal line. At $240 a pop, but hand stitched and made in California, “people thought it was dumb, but I didn’t think it was dumb at all,” Horstman said.
Costume sales now make up more than a quarter of the lingerie company’s total sales, and the company’s compound growth rate is over 30% for the last five years. It now offers 2500 costumes and a successful get up will sell in the thousands.
Do Ladies Want to Dress as Sexy Corn Fields?
“I always have my eyes open for new ideas,” Horstman said. “I think it was 4 or 5 months ago I was at a state fair, and I someone wearing a plush octopus hat. I took a picture on my phone and I turned it into a sexy squid costume. It’s pretty over the top.”
The colorful sexy squid costume comes in an underwater collection that also features a clown fish, sea turtle, shark, and killer whale–sexiest of all the creatures. (What woman doesn’t aspire to be a giant wonton whale on Halloween?)
But Quintana, who used to be a buyer at Dillard’s, pointed out that not all of Horstman’s concepts work. Like the sexy corn costume.
“I thought it would do well because I was in Nebraska at the time and there was corn everywhere,” Horstman said. “I thought that girls would buy a lot and wear them together and go as a corn field.”
(We should note that Horstman still hasn’t given up on the corn concept. There’s already a new sexy carrot outfit, so Horstman hopes that if he designs two other vegetables, there’s a chance that it will make a popular garden variety set.)
Yandy likes breaking the boundaries, but there are some lines it won’t cross. If a manufacturer, for example, offers a sexy nun or rabbi costume, Yandy won’t order it for fear of turning off potential customers.
“People might think a sexy burger costume is ridiculous, but no one gets upset,” said Horstman. “Well, maybe a vegetarian.”
“Then we have to start selling a sexy black bean burger costume,” Quintana offered.
Fashion Versus Fabric
Although the costumes are marketed as somewhat scandalous, Horstman said that he is considering changing some of the labels from “sexy” to “fashion.”
“Some of the best selling costumes right now come from more ready to wear silhouettes,” Quintana said. “High waisted designs are in and selling really well … and a lot of club wear sexy dresses have a lot of cutouts.” (Like the watermelon and cookie costumes.)
Less revealing onesies and rompers are also selling well.
“We once carried a line that was just super sexy bikinis, and they didn’t sell well,” Horstman said. “So we’re working with manufacturers. Girls, they’re tired of the skirts being so short.”
He’s even considering lengthening some skirts by an inch or so. He can always use the left-over fabric from the cut outs.
Click through our gallery of bizarre, sexy Halloween costumes: