Old Halloween Costumes

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Saturday, October 4, 1913:  Still working for wages.

DSC06562.cropResplendent in a flowing costume of gauzy marquisette studded with stars is the “Queen of the Night.” The dress is the empire design, with a tulle ruffle at the low neck and a drapery of transparent material falling from the shoulders in the back. Paper stars may be bought in various sizes.

Ladies Home Journal (July, 1912)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma was still helping with the corn harvest. As she worked,maybe she dreamed of making an awesome Halloween costume.

Here are some costumes that appeared in the July, 1912 issues of Ladies Home Journal. (The pictures showed patterns that the magazine sold—and they apparently wanted to give people plenty of time to sew the costumes.)

pink.witch.costume.1912Divested of the traditional black garments of the traditional witch, the rosy-hued costume envelopes the make-believe witch in a gown that has the power to charm that may prove irresistible. Black cats cut from black crepe paper are used to ornament a simple shirtwaist dress and a peaked cap with strips of paper or ribbon on the dress.

cowgirl.costume.1912A dashing broncho girl is picturesquely costumed and armed with a deadly weapon and cartridge belt, and holding a lariat with which to bring into submission all potential victims.


DSC06563.crop.2The brilliant colorings suggestive of the aboriginal American’s war dress are strikingly developed in the Indian girl costume. The dress is a one-piece princess design and may be made of russet-brown satin, the conventional trim being either hand-painted or developed with white and colored muslin patches.

Whew, some of these costumes (and the descriptions of them) won’t be considered appropriate today. But  some things never change–it’s interesting how the description of almost every costume indicates that the woman wearing it will be attractive or charming.

Note: I included two of these pictures in my October 31, 2012 post—but they are so good I just had to share them again this year.


35 Responses

  1. Not sure yet what I will be for Halloween this year. Perhaps I will go as George Lucas.

  2. Beautiful and impressive costumes!

  3. It seems that, even one hundred years ago, it was fashionable to be wafer thin.

  4. Never heard the phrase Aboriginal American before about American natives. Interesting how words used for races of people change even in one’s lifetime.

  5. Beautiful costumes! I love the pink one with the black cats….and the cowgirl one, too!

  6. Especially love the cat-dress–and even more especially, the hat and wand! Interesting that they suggest crepe paper for the detail–guess cleaning was not an option. Gee–no licensed characters! That in itself is a breath of fresh air!

  7. Oh my! Much different than what we will be putting together to wear to our son’s Halloween party.

  8. The first dress is my favorite, I like the stars, and how interesting they do not have masks.

    • I hadn’t thought about it before I read your comment, but you’re right– there’s no masks. I wonder if masks were less popular in the days before plastic.

  9. Those costumes deserve to be shown again. I hope Helena was having fun, daydreaming about such things, while she worked so hard.

  10. They are simply beautiful and definitely worthy of re-showing!

  11. Awesome! So glad you shared these costumes again. I didn’t know you last year. Dig that Annie Oakley hat!

  12. Tall, slender, will feel attractive in this outfit…. has fashion marketting changed much in 100 years… just more skin shown through the tall, slender attractive clothing. :)

  13. Wow that is really cool. I think I want like that now!!

  14. i love th fashion of that era. it’s so romantic and classy!

  15. Were those specified as Halloween costumes, or were they just fancy dress?

    • The title says “Costume Dresses for Summer Dances” but the text of the article begins with a sentence about witches and the one dress has the black cats on it. These pictures were in the July, 1912 issue of Ladies Home Journal, and were advertising patterns that readers could buy. My take was that it would take awhile to make the costumes–so it was in a summer issue but for Halloween. But an alternative interpretation would be that they were actually costumes for summer dances,

  16. clothes use to be dignified and elegant and modest, evil costumes is more recent huh??? lol

  17. Lovely post. I enjoyed it. Good job!

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