- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

Patriotic outfits have always been popular as Halloween costumes, but this year they are being worn with new fervor. Joan Pekin, owner of Costumes Creative in Silver Spring, says the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States have caused a resurgence of patriotism that's being reflected in Halloween costumes.
"We didn't have enough Statue of Liberty costumes," says Ms. Pekin while assisting one of her customers, Michele Schmitt, of Glen Burnie, Md. "We made more than usual to make sure we had them in stock."
Miss Schmitt considered dressing up as Wonder Woman or a cave girl, but eventually chose the Statue of Liberty.
"It seemed fitting for the time," says Miss Schmitt as she tries on a silvery green robe and gray bun-shaped wig.
Miss Schmitt's mother, Margie Schmitt of Glen Burnie, also thought about being the Statue of Liberty, but later decided on a Renaissance ensemble.
"My dad is going to be Henry VIII if the costume fits him," Miss Schmitt says.
Ms. Pekin also manufacturers red, white and blue Uncle Sam top hats, which have been sold internationally. Although such "toppers" have continued to be popular this year, she says fewer people have purchased costumes than in previous years. This concerns her because Halloween rentals produce one-third of her annual income.
"Usually, we are busier than this," Ms. Pekin says. "All the stores in the area have been affected by Sept. 11. I figure it will pick up the week before Halloween. We usually rent 800 to 1,000 costumes a season."
T.J. Pekin, Ms. Pekin's son, said they are trying to follow the advice of President Bush and go back to life as normal.
"We're making an effort," Mr. Pekin says. "We have mannequins dressed in red, white and blue."
According to the National Costumers Association, Mr. Pekin reports, the strongest Halloween was 1942, the year following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"We're definitely seeing an upsurge in benefit parties where people wear costumes," Mr. Pekin says. "In the aftermath of the tragedy, people can relax with family and friends in costume. We're hopeful for a healing party trend [but] it's hard to predict what will happen."
Ms. Pekin says that she has not received any requests from customers for Osama bin Laden costumes. But if she did, she would not make one.
"It's a nonissue," she says. "One of our Saddam Hussein masks sold, but that's as close to being political as we've gotten."
Adam Wilson of Washington, D.C., decided to dress as a minuteman from the Revolutionary War. Mr. Wilson, who works for the Bureau of National Affairs Inc., says his office is hosting an Americana Halloween party.
"I picked a solider because it seemed appropriate in light of everything else," says Mr. Wilson, whose Halloween attire includes a fake musket.
"Don't take that gun to a party on Capitol Hill," Ms. Pekin tells Mr. Wilson as she gives his costume a once-over. "They will take it away from you."
At the request of local law enforcement officials, Ms. Pekin does not rent policemen or firefighter costumes for Halloween. Nor does she rent Nazi or KKK outfits for the holiday. She also rents toy weapons instead of reproductions, although even the foils that go with the musketeer costumes concern her.
"The problem is that the foil is steel," she says. "But usually someone with $175 to rent a musketeer costume won't do anything bad with the foil."
Shawn Dimitriades, manager of Economy Party Supplies in Falls Church, says that the traditional gruesome Halloween masks are not selling as well as previous years. She believes this is as a result of the terrorist attacks.
"Power Rangers, Batman and Robin, the Dalmatians, Cookie Monster, and Elmo are selling like nothing has changed," Ms. Dimitriades says.
Christin Fitzsimmons, manager of Masters Tuxedo and Costumes in Arlington, says that many of her patriotic costumes were rented at the beginning of October.
"Patriotic stuff would usually go at the end of the month, but this year it was gone fast and early," Ms. Fitzsimmons reports. "Our red, white and blue hats are gone. We're selling a lot of red, white and blue makeup too."
World War II, Wonder Woman, Super Girl, and Sailor Girl costumes have also been popular, Ms. Fitzsimmons says.
"It doesn't have to be Uncle Sam to be patriotic," she adds.
John Snook and Liz Newman from Arlington chose to dress as World War II military personnel. They rented matching costumes.
"No dead people this year," Miss Newman says, while shopping at Masters Tuxedo and Costumes, "I think that would be in poor taste."

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