The Power of Costuming

Oct 29, 2015

According to the National Retail Federation, 157 million Americans will celebrate Halloween this weekend. As a nation, we’re expected to spend more than $6.9 billion on the holiday, with most of the expense going toward costuming.

A listener tweeted a photo of her daughter who takes pride in her homemade costumes.
Credit Photo Courtesy of Gabbi DeWitt

Author Lesley Bannatyne says costuming around Halloween has been growing in popularity since the 1880’s.

“When newspapers first started writing articles about the holiday, Victorian hostesses loved it,” she explains. “It has some spookiness. It was edgy. It was a little bit romantic.”

Bannatyne says that Halloween was originally just celebrated as an adult holiday. It was after World War 1 that companies started to manufacture costumes, and trick or treating became a popular activity for kids.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Bannatyne, author of Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night, and Susan Wolverton, who teaches costume design and theatre arts at Coe College.

Wolverton says that in her experience, costuming has a special kind of power to invoke creativity.

“I think a lot of it is an element of fantasy. Halloween at present is a lot about kids, and we can sort of return and act like children when we get to dress up and imagine ourselves as someone else. That chance to step outside ourselves and pretend is really enchanting,” she says.

What’s your favorite costume you’ve ever created? Send us a picture… or it didn’t happen. Tweet @IPRtalk. 

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