This year's Halloween costumes look more friendly than frightening.
The events of Sept. 11 have cast a shadow over this annual celebration of the gruesome and macabre, inspiring people to explore the gentler side of Halloween, local costume dealers say.
“People - they're traumatized. They don't need anything scary,” said Nancy Sander, a saleswoman at Kiggins Kostumes, Inc,. in Perrysburg. “I have a man who comes in every year looking for something scary, and this year he wanted something friendly.”
Those friendly looks include princesses, historical costumes, 1960s and '70s outfits, superheroes and science fiction characters, and a strong surge in patriotic figures, such as Uncle Sam.
At Star Design Costumes on West Sylvania Avenue, an Uncle Sam stands in one window, while a witch with fluorescent green hair fills another. Not a scary figure is in sight, and that's the way the folks there want it for now.
“We're debating on what to do with the windows,” said store manger Irene Rucker. “It's a touchy thing.”
The local trend toward kinder costumes appears to mirror what's happening nationally.
“It seems parents and children are looking for comfort in their costumes,” said Jeff Coppens, marketing director for the California-based costume maker Disguise, Inc. “The top five picks include pumpkins, athletes, and witches, as well popular characters that are very familiar, such as Power Rangers, Disney princesses, Barbie, and Winnie the Pooh.”
That's when people are buying at all. At Star, business slowed after the September attacks, and some items stopped selling.
“A couple of days before this happened, the sheik outfits were selling well,” Ms. Rucker said. “Then it just completely stopped.”
A flowing robe and kaffiyeh (head scarf held in place by a cord) normally makes a quick and easy costume for a man. But nobody seems to want one, or the harem girl outfits usually popular among women.
“It's more superheroes and anything that's red, white, and blue,” Ms. Rucker said. “And the Oz characters are doing really well.”
At Kiggins, Ms. Sander pulled the sheik costumes from the shelves.
“We're not going there,” she said, adding that she's had few requests for them anyway. And no, there is no rubber mask in the likeness of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Part of the issue is liability. Ms. Sander said someone wearing sheik attire could become a target, and she would not want to get sued.
While patriotic costumes such as the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam are especially popular this year, some plan to use costumes to express their anger over the Sept. 11 attacks, said Susan Lynch, of Lynch's, Inc., a family-owned costume store in Dearborn, Mich.
“As far as makeup, one guy already requested the graying black beard, with the bullet hole, and a sign that says, `wanted dead or alive.',” Ms. Lynch said of one customer's desire to portray Osama bin Laden for Halloween.
“It's just like when Bill and Hillary Clinton masks and costumes were really in several years ago. People go with the times,” Ms. Lynch said.
Many folks seem to want to pay tribute to the heroes of the attack and the rescue workers.
“Firemen and policemen are picking up,” Ms. Rucker said. “Normally, we wouldn't have a lot of requests for them, but we've had to order extras.”
At Disguise, Inc., one of the top American manufacturers of Halloween costumes, they have noticed the same phenomenon.
“We have had a lot of requests for the firefighter costumes,” said spokeswoman Lee Wilczek. “We had people placing reorders, after the attacks, and we sold out within the first week.”
Blade staff writer Rhonda B. Sewell contributed to this report.