Artist Manasi Arya didn’t grow up fearing ghosts, ghouls, or monsters during Halloween.

Horror is a genre that’s great for social interaction, both when playing and when seeing other people’s emotions.

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Manasi, an immigrant from India who came to the United States as a first generation, found it “difficult to fit in” at school on Halloween.

The American holiday “wasn’t a thing” at home, so she was unable to dress up like the other kids.

Consequently, her mother would advise her to “just wear an Indian outfit” for Halloween rather than purchase a costume.

The mother-daughter team did, however, enter a pumpkin competition with a drawing of an Indian woman decked up in traditional jewelry.

Manasi realized that the two aspects of her identity could coexist when they prevailed.

Jhumka-wearing skeletons on Halloween

According to Manasi, the encounter served as the inspiration for her apparel line, which combines traditional ethnic attire worn by South Asian women with iconic Halloween imagery.

One of her T-shirts, for instance, features the well-known mask worn by Ghostface in the horror film series Scream, but it also includes a red bindi dot on the forehead.

Another depicts a skeleton with a tikka—a headdress—and large Indian earrings known as jhumkas.

Since she began the line three years ago, Manasi said there has been “an overwhelmingly positive response”.

Indian parents have expressed gratitude to her, according to her, for providing them with a “fun but educational” approach to introduce their children to who they are.

However, there is a more somber side to Manasi’s art, since discussions about appropriate Halloween attire have been trending on social media for some time.

While some support dressing up as the celebrities they admire, others criticize them for “cosplaying” characters from other cultures.

Black British musician, activist, and influencer Solana has firsthand experience with it.

Solana wrote a TikTok earlier this month about her experience participating in the well-known student pub crawl, the Leeds Otley Run, last year and seeing a white man dressed as a “Jamaican” with an afro wig.

She claims that after noticing Solana and her friends who are black seated across from him, the man took off the wig.

Solana responds, “Why would they feel the need to do that if the costume they were wearing was okay?”

She maintains that “cultures are not costumes” and that if individuals choose to dress up, “the focus should be less on cultural stereotypes” and more on expressing one’s own sense of fashion.

According to Manasi, those who are “ignorant” of traditional clothing and its origins are mostly responsible for some costume choices.

She claims to have challenged a white girl once who was wearing a bindi; the girl did not realize that bindis serve as Hindus’ third eye and believed them to be merely “pretty” decorations.

Manasi says she hopes to initiate discussions about appropriation and appreciation through her clothes brand.

Arya’ s Aims

Manasi aims to educate people about South Asian culture through her clothing brand and spark a discussion about the fine line between appropriation and admiration.

Since her wardrobe consists “primarily of T-shirts, sweaters, and denim,” she claims to be “comfortable with anyone” wearing it.

But it appears that Manasi’s designs are providing the motivation that younger generations need that she did not have as a youngster.

Wearing a green and black sari and a witch’s cap, the young Indian girl informed her she was “inspired” by her artwork and decided to dress up as a “desi witch” for Halloween celebration.

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