Going as Mulan for Halloween - An Asian American's Opinion

Disclosure: Affiliate links are used in this post. You can read my full disclosure here


With the new Disney Live-Action Mulan movie recently coming out on Disney+ and with Halloween coming up. there are probably going to be a lot of kids wanting to dress up as Mulan for Halloween.



Which brings up the question: 


Can my non-Asian child go as Mulan for Halloween? 

Being half-Chinese, I have had others ask me for my thoughts, and have shared in private, but hesitated to make a post before because I thought being born in America, I do not have as much say as someone who was born and raised in China, and maybe I don't, but here are my thoughts as an Asian American:


In my opinion, YES! You and or your child can dress up as Mulan for Halloween, BUT make sure the costume is recognizable as the character, so buying an approved Disney costume (like the ones pictured above) is your best bet, but you can handmake your own too, there are plenty of amazing Disney cosplayers who do a great job. It's just important your costume is recognizable as Mulan, otherwise it crosses into cultural appropriation.


Cultural appropriation, according to Oxford is:  

"The unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society."


Wearing a hanfu, qipao or cheongsam on Halloween is inappropriate. Being Chinese is not a costume. It is even worse when traditional Chinese attire is made "sexy" as Fawnia Soo-Hoo says perfectly:

"My big beef with the sexed up version of a qipao is that it perpetuates the stereotype that Chinese women are "exotic," subservient sluts. " - Fawnia Soo-Hoo (source)


 The "sexy" versions are NEVER okay. It is disrespectful and distasteful. 


Now if you want to wear a qipao or cheongsam, I feel that is totally fine, just not on Halloween and not as a costume.


So if not Halloween, you might be wondering when can I wear Chinese cultural attire? And is it okay for a non-Chinese person to wear traditional Chinese outfits?? 


My answer: You do not have to be Chinese to wear a hanfu, cheongsam, qipao, etc. You can wear them on any Chinese holiday or to any formal event such as a wedding or a gala, or more casual or inspired attire could even be worn to work. 


For example, Rachel Green in Friends wears a beautiful black floral cheongsam to her friend, Pheobe Buffay's, elegant bachelorette party:



Rachel also wore a black Chinese-inspired dress as a casual everyday dress in the season 2 episode 11:


I use Friends as a reference because I have seen each episode at least a dozen times and Rachel's Asian inspired outfits definitely stood out to me, and she wore them appropriately, so she is a great example of when you can wear traditional Chinese clothing without it crossing into cultural appropriation. 

Now, this is just one Asian American's opinion. I know there are others who would say if you aren't of that culture, you can't ever wear that attire, but personally, I feel this is taking it too far. There is nothing wrong with admiring and wanting to dress in another culture's clothing, but if you think you can only wear it as a costume on Halloween, then that's the problem.

Mulan is okay for Halloween because she is a fictional character and she has very distinct outfits. As long as it is obvious that you or your child is dressed as Mulan, then go for it! But dressing up in a qipao, cheongsam, hanfu, etc., that does not resemble Mulan at all and saying you are "Mulan" or worse claiming you are "Chinese" for Halloween, is not okay.

Race and cultures are not costumes. You can pretend to be Mulan. You can't pretend to be Chinese.





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15 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. My kids absolutely love Mulan.

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  2. This is completely a new concept for me-Mulan. It's fantastic learning about different country's culture and tradition.

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  3. I love this idea! My daughter loves Mulan and after watching the latest movie, she's excited to dress up Mulan this halloween. I am following your advise to just buy an approved Disney costume. :)

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  4. I love the costume! I agree, the sexy version is not okay.

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  5. Very thoughtful and interesting article. I love Halloween because it’s a time to get creative and be anything you want! Love the idea of going with the Disney approved costume!

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  6. truly love the concept of getting dressed in costumes as our imagination is the limit for what we want to be then..
    love the costues you featured

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  7. It is interesting to read your perspective. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Those are beautiful costumes.

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  8. Those costumes are so cute! I can't wait to watch the movie. I'm non-Asian but have a lot of Asian characteristics so I wore traditional garmets for Halloween as a child. I love how you break this down and I couldn't agree with you more on how inappropriate the sexy costumes are!

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  9. I love Halloween for the opportunity to be something that you naturally are not. It's sad that some ruin the innocence of it. Love Mulan!

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  10. Thank you for sharing your perspective. Such an important topic during this season.

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  11. Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts! I think Halloween brings out a lot of accidental cultural appropriation and posts like this help people make informed decisions about their costume choice.

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  12. Never thought of something like this. Halloween is near and I think we can dress our kids the way they wanted to be.

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    Replies
    1. As long as you aren't pretending to be a race a culture, it's fine. Stick to fictional characters and animals.

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  13. A very interesting post in today's more culturally sensitive era. I agree that if the costume represents a fictional character, especially when worn by a child, she be absolutely fine.

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  14. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I love many of the beautiful dresses and other items and have worn them in the past. Lately I have been doing a lot of listening and trying to learn what is appropriate and I am appreciative when people are open.

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