Friday, October 4, 2019

VII - Costumes for the Young and Old

As we have discovered, the practice of dressing in costumes dates back to the Celts in the Middle Ages. As the holiday of Halloween became more popular in America, so did costumes. The first noted ones, dating back to the late 1800s, were handmade. Most were witches and ghosts, classic symbols of the early celebrations of All Hallows’ Eve.
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By the Victorian times, costumes took on more ‘Excotic’ themes. The Victorians were fascinated by characters from the Far East, the Orient, and the Near East. Popular costumes included Egyptian Princesses and Arabian Princes.

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But they also had very elaborate costumes of other figures:

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As early as the 1900s, commercially produced costumes made of paper were available. By the 1930s and 1940s, mass produced costumes could be found almost anywhere.

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Each decade was celebrated in different character costumes. The earliest costumes in the late 1800's were witches, the devil, ghosts, and the like. In the 1920's clowns were very popular. In the 1930s Mickey and Minnie Mouse were in vogue. Witches were popular once again in the 1940s. By the 1950's costumes moved away from the witches, the devil, and ghosts. Besides TV characters, Super Heroes, and the Disney Princesses were other popular costumes. Other popular choices included Elvis Presley (1969), The Beatles (1970), ET (1980).

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Dating back to the early 20th century there were Halloween parties known as Costume Parties or Masquerade Balls. However, costume parties date back to the 1500's, especially around the celebration of Carnival. Maybe the most elaborate of these were in Italy during the Renaissance of the 1600's.

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There was always the fear that the childrens’ costumes would catch on fire, given they were often close to lit Jack ‘O Lanterns. In 1953 Congress passed The Flammables Fabric Act. With that, all commercially manufactured and sold clothing had to pass safety standards. However, fire resistant fabric was not new. As far back as the 400’s people were trying to protect fabric from burning.

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Casper the Friendly Ghost  was popular in 1968.

One concern was the fear of fire in theaters. In 1632 there were attempts to make fire resistant fabrics using clay and plaster of Paris. Later alum and ammonium phosphate were tried. By the 1900’s chemists developed a flame resistant coating for fabrics using stannic oxide. In addition to children’s pajamas and bed sheets, Halloween costumes were treated with this method.

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