Patriotic costumes selling well following national tragedy

Daily Arts Writer
Published October 24, 2001

Orange and black streamers and a large American flag war for attention in the window of Little Caesars at 3000 Packard Road.

Next door, devil and angel costumes dominate the displays at Fantasy Attic Costumes. Here Halloween is in full swing, but according to the owner, Monica Ladd, there are still lingering effects from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

The Halloween rush began later and slower than in previous years, Ladd said, but business is picking up now. Customers are starting to feel ready to celebrate the holiday.

"We"re looking for something to take our minds off school and everything that"s been happening," said Business School junior Rebekah Wolfman, who was shopping at Fantasy Attic Costumes last week.

The terrorist attacks have inspired some customers in their costume selections, Ladd said.

"We"re out of our Statue of Liberty (costumes) for rental," she said. "They"re gone."

Other costume stores are experiencing similar problems. Gags and Gifts Halloween USA manager Eva Cruz claims the number of customers searching for patriotic costumes has increased. Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty outfits are a popular way to display patriotic sentiment during the holiday, believes Cruz.

Her store, which has locations at 3430 Washtenaw Ave. and 357 North Maple Road, also is offering army soldier and stealth pilot ensembles in response to the increased demand for patriotic costumes. The army soldier is currently one of the store"s biggest sellers.

Soldier costume sales also are up from last year at Harry"s Army Surplus, on East Liberty Street according to store manager David Krupin. The store offers full fatigues, boots and camouflage t-shirts, pants and jackets. Krupin said the flag patches for the uniforms and medic bags have also been selling well.

A few blocks away, demand is increasing for navy apparel at Retro Threads, which is located at 215 South State Street. Owner David McNulty said the trend is a new one for this year.

With the publicity surrounding the rescue efforts in New York City, fire and police department costumes are flying off the shelves. Fireman garb is proving particularly popular and Gags and Gifts Halloween USA is carrying fireman costumes in adult sizes for the first time to meet the demand.

"It"s always a good costume, but this year it"s even hotter," Cruz said.

Masks depicting presidents and other political figures may serve as another option for those inspired by the current political comment. Gags and Gifts Halloween USA carries a range of such masks, including George W. Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

Cruz commented that current events tend to impact the sales of celebrity masks. The O.J. Simpson murder trial, the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight in which Tyson bit off part of Holyfield"s ear and the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the Clinton White House all resulted in demand for masks, she said. She added that she expects this year"s terrorist attacks will be no exception, even though she thinks it may not be appropriate considering the scope of the tragedy.

Fantasy Attic Costumes also stocks a number of the faces involved in the Bush administration, such as Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney and First Lady Laura Bush. But sales are down this year and customers prefer to look at alternatives, including George and Martha Washington costumes.

"I think (the situation) is too serious for people to make fun of Bush," Ladd said.

Demand has also declined for sheik costumes after the government identified the terrorist attack suspects as Arabs, although Arab headdresses and harem costumes still are selling well according to Ladd.

For those who aren"t planning to wear patriotic costumes, Halloween will remain true to tradition, said LSA senior Elizabeth Wiener.

"Halloween is fun," Wiener commented. "That"s the point. Everyone should have a good time, especially after Sept. 11."

Ladd, gesturing to a long rack full of costumes already rented for Halloween, said there is little doubt people will be celebrating the holiday in spite of the national tragedy. "I think that people are trying to seek normalcy something that"s regular."