ANNAPOLIS – Last year, it was French maids and sexy devils. This Halloween, the young women who come to Harriet Berlin’s Artistic Costume and Fun Shop in Baltimore want Uncle Sam costumes – or pieces of them, in some cases.
“I’ve had women buy Uncle Sam costumes and only wear the jacket — and some tights,” said Berlin, shop owner. “College girls or early 30s, they want to be sexy for Halloween. This year, they want to be patriotic.”
The Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centers redefined America’s image of the horrifying. Now, at a time when trick-or-treaters typically select the most terrifying costumes, Americans are seeking relief from the macabre in more wholesome and historic Halloween fare.
At Costumes Creative in Silver Spring, patriotic attire is in demand. The store makes and rents its own costumes, and has noticed more customer interest in star-spangled ensembles.
“Anything related to Americana,” says company vice president T.J. Pekin.
It’s the same at Baltimore’s Rutledge Costume Co. Owner-manager Anita Rutledge is an expert in historic American wear, having outfitted actors for a History Channel special on “Haunted Baltimore” last year.
So the George Washingtons, Betsy Rosses and John Paul Joneses (“like the Revolutionary War soldier, but with white lapels,” says Rutledge) are selling like Harry Potter books. So are the cowboys, Davy Crocketts, flappers, pilots and Wonder Women.
“It has to say `America,'” Pekin said. “There aren’t many French cowboys, and you don’t think of Mexican Al Capones. There are periods that are strictly American — those are the things that have superceded the more generic, non- American costumes.”
“We don’t see too many people wanting to be gory and ghoul-y,” agreed Berlin of Artistic Costume. “The old-fashioned stuff is popular again.”
Her customers are asking for World War II costumes, camouflage and the Wizard of Oz, in addition to the risque Uncle Sams.
Probably the world’s most terrifying costume these days – a turbaned suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden – isn’t being requested, the costumers say.
“Only one couple asked me for (a turban), to be terrorists,” Berlin said. In times of controversy, she said, it’s not unusual for people to ask for costumes “in bad taste.”
“I haven’t found anything like that, thank goodness,” Berlin said.
Neither are people interested in the surplus Hazmat suits Berlin ordered a year and half ago. “I don’t want anybody to think it has a connection to (the anthrax),” she said.
Berlin, Pekin and Rutlege agree no patriotic personalities have been as popular this year as Uncle Sam and his mate, Lady Liberty.
“We’ve sold about 24 Uncle Sams this month,” Berlin said. “Fourth of July, we sold one.”