Hundreds of Asian Women Dressed as Lara Jean from 'TATBILB'

'To All the Boys I've Loved Before' finally gives Asian American women another Halloween costume option.

by Nicole Clark
Oct 31 2018, 7:56pm

Screenshot via Instagram

Every Asian woman has faced the same dilemma around Halloween. How are we supposed to dress? While there's tons of options ranging from themed costumes, puns, inanimate objects, and everything in between, dressing up as a TV or film star or character can be incredibly limited. There's minimal representation and earnest attempts at emulating favorite stars can result in being mistaken for an anime character. And many costume sellers are still offering offensive garb that peddle Asian stereotypes.

Luckily, this year's Asian led romcoms have offered Asian women a wider range of costume options for Halloween. These films were successful enough that costumes would be recognizable: Crazy Rich Asians broke the box office, and To All the Boys I've Loved Before was one of the "most viewed original films ever with strong repeat viewing," according to Netflix.

An overwhelming number of women dressed up as TATBILB's introverted Lara Jean Covey for Halloween this year, rocking outfits from nearly every scene in the movie—from her first day of school ensemble to her look from her first party out with Peter Kavinsky. Dozens of women took to Instagram to share their looks and the author of the TATBILB series, Jenny Han, collected some of her favorite looks in a thread on Twitter.

Han is generally quite outspoken about issues of representation on her numerous social media platforms, posting regularly about the limited scope of Asian characters in American films and television. She's no stranger to the annual conundrum of finding a Halloween costume as an Asian American woman. "One Halloween I was Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill," she wrote via email, "Then the next Halloween I was Cho Chang because I already had the components. I dressed up as Cho for several Halloweens because I was sick of people asking me what I was. I also just kept improving the Cho costume every year by adding more Ravenclaw merch."

Han's work made an incredible impact, and she was moved by the outpouring of support. "To see their smiling, proud faces, to see them really owning this character and this moment—it brought tears to my eyes," Han wrote. "I felt such joy. It really feels like being part of something." She says she was especially impressed by the woman who dressed up as "Lara Jean Croft: To All the Tombs I've Raided Before," and that "one mom wrote a note to Lana and [Han] that said how happy she was that her daughter would grow up to see herself as the main character in stories." Lana Condor herself was "so touched by it all," Han added.

I asked a few of the women who dressed up as Lara Jean this Halloween why they chose to this costume, and how it feels to finally be represented:

I pretty much knew as soon as I watched the movie that I was going to be Lara Jean for Halloween! I identified with Lara Jean in so many ways and I think many people see a part of them in her. For me, the small cultural nuances like choosing Facemasks over skiing—I was dying. My husband looked over at me and was like "that's so you." The driving thing is pretty accurate when it comes to me, and those yogurt drinks were a staple in my household growing up. I loved the way this movie represented Korean Americans, like it wasn't in your face forcing Korean culture down your throat. You almost forget the fact that she's Korean and just start loving her for her. Just as a person. That's why I think this movie was so well done, it reached a lot of people not just those of Asian heritage.
- Joyce Kahng

After I saw the movie on Netflix, I knew right away that I wanted to dress up as Lara Jean for Halloween. I didn't even hesitate in making my decision because there are almost no costumes meant for a person of color, let alone someone who is Asian. So many people are dressing up as characters from 'Black Panther,' 'Moana,' and 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before' because it feels good to dress up and have your identity be a part of your costume. Jenny Han did an amazing job in creating Asian characters without the cliché roles (a nerd, a hyper-sexualized male fantasy, etc.). She was Asian just for the sake of being Asian. I am adopted, I was raised in the greater Philadelphia area, English is my first language, and I speak with a Philly accent. I really appreciated seeing a character who was Asian American, like me. I am proud of my Asian identity (as seen in my Instagram handle) so it feels really good to be represented.
- Madison Peschen

The main reason I chose to be Lara Jean for Halloween is because she is Asian. The book and movie have a perfect quote for this, that "there are very limited options for Asian girls on Halloween" because of underrepresentation in popular culture and media. Representation matters because you're not just acknowledging someone is different from you, but appreciating it, too. I feel excited and proud to see more people in the spotlight who look like me and that I can relate to.
- Zoe Kamman

When I watched 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before' the day it came out, it was a very emotional experience for me to see a love story involving an Asian American girl. I found that I could see myself in her and directly relate to her on many levels, which was a rare experience for me. I read about how Jenny Han had to fight to get an Asian American female lead to play Lara Jean and I'm so glad she did.

The only character I've repeatedly been compared to is Mulan, and while she's awesome, it saddened me that she was the only character people thought of when they looked at me. This year, it was refreshing to have multiple options, from Rachel Chu and Astrid Leong from 'Crazy Rich Asians,' to Lara Jean from 'TATBILB.' Ultimately, I chose Lara Jean because I can relate to her on a personal level. Media representation matters. This films sends the message to Asian American girls all over the country that their feelings and stories are important and valued too.

Growing up as a third and fourth-generation Asian American, I never saw myself represented in the media around me. Since 7th grade, I've been signed with a couple talent and modeling agencies and quickly found that the number of jobs for Asian Americans is extremely slim. It's not uncommon to hear things like "we already have an Asian, we don't need anymore," and I found that I'd often be cast as the token Asian or would only receive audition opportunities for international or non-speaking roles. This frustrated me immensely. In a world where we're constantly inundated with media images, it's indisputable that media shapes what and who we as a society value and care about.
- Elizabeth Jean Li

I chose to dress up as Lara Jean because I really loved her style. I actually bought some of the clothes she wore right after I saw the movie. I also identify with her character because I'm pretty awkward and shy in person. It's wonderful to see Asian Americans as leads in films like 'TATBILB' and 'Crazy Rich Asians.' I wish this representation happened sooner but I'm glad it's happening now and I'm definitely hungry for more.
- Margo

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to all the boys i've loved before