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Costumes That Raise The Specter Of the Street

By Laura Sessions Stepp
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 28, 2004; Page C01

Hey Mom! Hey Dad! We've found the perfect Halloween costumes for the kids.

Forget dressing them like Shrek and Fiona. That's so last year.

Black feathers, stockings and a very short dress make up the "ho" outfit. (Brands On Sale Inc.)

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What Josh and Caitlin need are the rags that are selling briskly in California and New York: Child pimp suits and "ho" dresses. At $40 to $50, they begin at size 4, tailored in the '70s style of blaxploitation movies like "Superfly."

Can't you just see your little boy in a pink velvet suit and matching wide-brimmed hat with faux-zebra trim? Or Caitlin in black feathers and stockings as she sets off to trick or treat for UNICEF? (The outfit actually looks like a 1920s flapper dress, but don't tell her that. It would spoil her pose. And right now, it's sold out because of "overwhelming demand," says one Web site.)

You think we're kidding. We're not.

Brandsonsale.com, an online marketing company that sells everything from poker chips to bandannas, is offering one ho and four pimp costumes for children this year just in time for Halloween, along with its usual Spider-Man, Oatmeal Bear, witches, devils and vampires.

Next year, the company plans pimp attire for infants. The demand, says company spokesman Johnathon Weeks Jr., grows each year.

"We started with the pimp suit two years ago," Weeks said Wednesday from his Cerritos, Calif., office. "It's one of our biggest sellers.

"We also sell pimp and ho outfits to whole families: Mom, Dad, kids and the dog."

His customers span the racial and ethnic rainbow, he says. Most live in California, New York and Florida: "You know, where the real pimps hang out."

If Weeks sounds a bit brash, you should know he's only 21. His father, John, a salesman to independent toy stores, started Brandsonsale three years ago after the bottom fell out of the small toy-store business. Johnathon buys and designs merchandise for the company, which now employs 35 people. "We sell unique stuff that pushes the envelope," he says.

Of course, this particular envelope has been nudged already.

Teenagers, out of earshot of adults, call each other "pimp" and "ho" the way past generations used "dude" and "girlfriend."

Rapper Nelly sings "Pimp Juice" and pushes an energy drink by the same name. MTV carries a car-refurbishment series called "Pimp My Ride." Actors Bernie Mac and William Shatner have made an animated comedy about a 9-year-old player, still unreleased, called "Lil' Pimp." Last Halloween, Abigail Potter's sons, Justin and Aaron, spotted a school friend wearing a pimp costume. This year, the boys, 10 and 11, talked Potter into ordering two -- one pink, one purple -- from Brandsonsale. They plan on duding up for a neighborhood Halloween party.

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