Thursday, October 12, 2000

Scaring up holiday attire is tricky

Halloween's best-dressed list includes presidents, ladybugs and an Elvis or two

By Shauna Scott Rhone
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Halloween, or All Hallow's Eve, originally was celebrated to usher in All Saints Day on Nov. 1. But the symbols for the Oct. 31 holiday are anything but saintly.

        In 1999, Americans spent nearly $98 per person on costumes, candy, decorations and other Halloween products. This $5 billion retail season is second only to Christmas in holiday spending.

        Debra Corcoran of Blue Ash loves Halloween.

[photo] Youth ($29) and adult ($49) Tigger costumes from the Disney Store.
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        “I think Halloween is a fun and playful day of dress-up,” she says. “Parents have just as much fun as the kids. Many moms in my neighborhood dress-up with the kids.”

        This time of year, several Greater Cincinnati stores turn into Halloween Central with masks, costumes and accessories to create a night to remember. Whether a night of trick-or-treating or attending an elaborate costume party bobs your apples, choosing what you wear can be half the fun.

        “Usually the last week before Halloween is when it (the buying frenzy) gets intense,” says Hank Sykes of Cappel's. “What's popular with boys (this year) is Power Rangers, and girls like Mulan, Ariel and cheerleaders.”

        Ms. Corcoran's three children are deciding their choices.

        “Alexis (is) planning on being a bee or a ladybug and Christen will probably be a leopard this year,” she says. Ms. Corcoran's son Brendan still is mulling over his options.

        Adults are just as particular, says Mr. Sykes. “Adults are into '60s and '70s people, pirates, sexy witches and Star Trek characters. We have the early Elvis for $34.99 and the older Elvis for $159. The price for a child's costume ranges from $5-$27, adults from $7 to $159.”

        This year's presidential candidates are popular masks, as is the pope, Mr. Sykes says.

[photo] Skeleton costume from Country Livingšs Handmade Halloween (Hearst Books; $19:95)
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        If you want to kick your costume up a notch, try a pair of WildEyes. Available only through an eye-care practitioner, these nine styles of look-altering contact lenses can disguise even the most anti-dress-up party-goer. Lens names include “whiteout,” “cateye” and “redhot.” The cost is $99 per pair; they last for up to a year.

        Nationally, the costume trend is a little different. Harry Potter and wizards in general are popular with boys and girls. While boys prefer X-Men, professional wrestlers or Pokemon, girls opt for Powerpuff Girls, the women from X-Men or dressing like their favorite pop singer; Christina Aguilera is a popular choice. Parents can dress their infants like Teletubbies, Blue's Clues and Franklin the Big Red Dog.

        More creative parents still have time to use “stitchcraft” to fashion a costume from patterns from Butterick, McCall's or Simplicity.

        In response to the overwhelming interest in Harry Potter, use McCall's pattern 2937 for “Witches and Wizards,” or Simplicity's designs 9372 or 9310 for “Harry” or ""Hermoine.” Parents can get into the wizard act by sewing a robe with Butterick patterns 3820 or 3819.

        For the little ones, McCall's offers Pokemon costume patterns of Pikachu (McCall's 2511), Charmeleon (2830), Mewtwo (2831), Marill (2832), Bulbasaur (2833) and Ash (3002). These costumes will fit boys and girls sizes 4-8.

        Some parents like to dress exactly like their children. Tristate Disney Stores make Halloween magic with costumes based on some of Disney's most popular characters: Bear in the Big Blue House, Pooh, Tigger, Cinderella, Ariel, Snow White or the stars of Toy Story — Buzz, Woody and Jessie.

    Halloween has been traced back to an ancient Celtic observance of the new year. They believed that Oct. 31 was the day spirits walked the earth in search of a body to inhabit for the coming year. The Celts dressed in costumes designed to scare the spirits (even as ghosts to confuse the spirits) and kept their houses dark.
    As Christianity became more widespread, the Catholic Church urged the Celts to discontinue pagan celebrations and adopt the Gregorian calendar, which added two months to the end of the year. The church established a holy day to follow the Celts' Samhain (pronounced sow-en), called All Saints Day. Samhain was changed to All Hallows Eve (hallow meaning holy) and it eventually evolved into Halloween.
    Why trick-or-treating?
    The Celts believed that offering the spirits treats would prevent them from misbehaving. “Pooka” was believed to be a spirit who liked to play pranks. Offering a treat was considered a gesture of hospitality and would discourage Pooka's antics.
    In Scotland, teens would dress in costume after harvest and go from house to house demanding hospitality, or a treat. This continued with younger and younger children until now the tradition is mainly for the young.
    Where did we get the jack-o'-lantern?
    This tradition is tied more to legend. A man named Jack entered into a pact with the devil to extend his life, then reneged and eventually paid the ultimate price. The devil, still sore from being fooled by Jack, refused him entrance into hell and gave him a hot coal to wander for eternity. Jack found a turnip and shoved the coal into it to guide his way.
    When Irish immigrants arrived in America, they found pumpkins more plentiful than turnips and started hollowing them out and setting first an ember, then a candle, inside for a glow in the dark.
        Celebrate baby's first Halloween by letting him or her trick-or-treat in a Pooh Bee, Hunny Pot or smaller versions of the Dalmatian, Snow White and Tigger costumes.

        Preteens may go for Minnie Mouse, Peter Pan, Captain Hook and costumes from the smash hit Dinosaur. The costumes also can be found at

        The people at Rit Color suggest dying new or used clothes to create a new costume. Try dying a pair of pajamas a bright yellow, dying pompoms in different colors and glueing them on and sew on predyed towels in a ruffle fashion at the hems to create a festive clown costume. See the results on the Fabric Link Web site at

        Speaking of clowns, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is offering a brochure by mail, “How to Make Your Own Clown Face.” It tells what makeup tools to buy and how to apply them professionally. The address is Happy Halloween from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, P.O. Box 21309, Chattanooga TN, 37424-0309. A snag for this year: it may take two-three weeks for delivery.

        Catalogs, too are good sources for costumes and decorating ideas. Oriental Trading Co. ( and Lillian Vernon ( have catalogs that are chock-full of costumes, trinkets and other goodies.

        Other Halloween-oriented Web sites include,,, and Each site has costumes for children and adults, lots of decorations and music to open the lid on the season's mood.

        Old Navy stores and their online site,, offer accessories and party supplies as well as Halloween-themed T-shirts.

        In bookstores is Handmade Halloween ($19.95; Hearst Books) by the publishers of Country Living magazine. The book gives tips on creative costumes, devilish decorations and scaring up the perfect party. This can be a handy reference with more than 30 craft projects, 15 recipes for snacks and party food and many other hair-raising ideas.

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