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Anna Rexia, the eating disorder Halloween costume

September 30, 2011 |  6:00 am

AnnarexiaEvery year at Halloween, we've come to expect  costumes that depict political figures, comic book characters and otherworldly beings, but what about dressing up like a serious eating disorder?

The costume known as Anna Rexia, a getup that makes a mockery of the disease anorexia, features a tight black dress with skeleton detail down the front, measuring tape to tie around your shrinking waist and neck, Anna Rexia heart name tag (in case people don't get it) and a bone barrette to put in your hair.

But controversy over the getup seems to have caused it to do a disappearing act.

The costume -- pictured at left -- surfaced back in 2007, apparently without much fanfare. But it  recently caused a stir when the Village Voice reported that the costume had popped up on the popular online costume retailer Ricky'sNYC.com's website in September. Within hours of the story coming out online, Ricky's removed the costume from the site, directing consumers to this message:

"Ricky's NYC does not sell or carry the Anna Rexia costume; it is not available in-store or online and was inadvertently displayed on our website. We don't own or manufacture the costume and are sensitive to the concerns of our customers on all levels. We appreciate your concerns and feedback and will continue to listen to our customers and provide the very best service every day to every customer. Thank you for sharing your feedback."

The costume is still listed, but unavailable, on other sites such as Supermodelboutique.com as well as a plus-size version on Halloweenstore.com. A customer service representative from Supermodelboutique.com said she was unaware the costume was still listed and that the company no longer carries it.

The costume has come under heavy criticism from the National Eating Disorders Assn.

"It’s disgusting that people have a costume about a potentially life-threatening illness," said Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Assn. "It’s like a costume about people with malignant tumors. The designers of this costume should see an 8-year-old girl on a feeding tube."

Dreamgirl International, which manufactures costumes and lingerie, began making the costume in 2007. It was discontinued in 2009 due to "tapering off in sales," according to Alicia Brockwell, director of marketing at Dreamgirl.

"We understand that some people will not find the dark humor funny or that they are sensitive to the topic it addresses," said Brockwell in an email. She went on to write: "We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and would never want to cause harm to anyone. Dreamgirl is a company run by women for women. Halloween is an eccentric and irreverent holiday for people to express themselves in a myriad of ways. While some people may not like a particular costume, it is a matter of taste and personal discretion."

The costume may have been designed to be a joke, featuring a busty model in the ads, but Grefe is concerned that Anna Rexia is sending the wrong message to young girls.

"Anorexia has the highest death rate of any mental illness," Grefe said. "When you make a joke or mockery about it, it could make someone struggling with the disease resistant to treatment."

What do you think? A clever joke or a serious costume faux pas? Tell us in the comments below.

-- Jenn Harris

twitter.com/jenn_harris_

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Photo: The Anna Rexia costume listed on the supermodelboutique.com website. Credit: Supermodelboutique.com

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