Its Halloween: break out the wigs and swords

Whether the tea party will make a big splash on Nov. 2 remains to be seen. But the verdict is already in for Oct. 31. This Halloween, historic getups for adults — think wigs and period dress — are in.

Powdered wigs, tricornered hats and costumes of colonial men are selling well, says Dotty Zolper, merchandise manager for, a national online retailer. "The trend in colonial has really spiked," she says, adding that there is also a Martha Washington costume that appeals to women who want to look as if they lived in a certain age.


Ordinarily the high season for such outfits is February, when the nation marks the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and when there are a lot of patriotic plays. But in the past two years the call for colonial wear has peaked during Halloween. The next two weeks, she says will be "crazy busy" as the company, based in New Berlin, Wis., ships colonial soldier outfits and Ben Franklin garb to customers around the nation, including Maryland.

Some see this penchant to dress like the founding fathers as reflecting the national sentiment. The colonists, as a recent article in The Wall Street Journal pointed out, were in the ultimate anti-incumbent mood in the 18


century. These outfits, the Journal noted, have often been seen at tea party rallies.

But tea party fever isn't the only reason to dress like your ancestors. One is conveying a sense of history. "It takes you out of your time," says Alexandra Deutsch, chief curator of the Maryland Historical Society. On the Saturday before Halloween she will be in costume at a Lake Roland dinner party depicting what life was like in Baltimore during the Civil War. The evening, a $500 a plate fund raiser the society's upcoming Civil War exhibit, will have about 50 people clad in period dress and will show the fractured loyalties felt by Marylanders during the war. Ms. Deutsch, the hostess of the evening, will portray a woman sympathetic to the South. Her husband, portrayed by an actor, will play the role of staunch supporter of the Union.

It is heartening to see some Americans donning Halloween costumes as a way to delve into our nation's past. But this curiosity is not universal. Shop owners in Baltimore as well as national online operators report that the most popular costume this Halloween is not one for George Washington or Abe Lincoln but for Lady Gaga.

—Rob Kasper