The costumes featured in Hallowe’en at Greenfield Village are made for all types of weather conditions. Just like trick-or-treaters walking through their own neighborhoods on October 31, our presenters and staff members must be ready for any weather scenario.
Try these tips from our costuming experts in our Period Clothing Studio.
Our Hallowe’en costumes are made of a water resistant, breathable, nylon athletic material called Supplex, so that they can be worn in the rain. When that material isn’t used, our lightweight cottons are sprayed with Scotchguard or have a wool outer layer that naturally protects the wearer. If you purchase a costume made of thin polyester, make sure you can layer a windbreaker or waterproof athletic shirt underneath for rainy weather. Most of the characters during Hallowe’en also have umbrellas that match their outfits in case rain is in the forecast.
When the temperatures are warmer than normal, our costumes are built to be worn over lightweight cotton layers, like T-shirts and shorts or leggings to wick away sweat. Conversely, thermal underlayers can be added for cold weather to add protection without added bulk.
Need a Greenfield Village example? The Lion costume is worn over cotton layers with an ice pack vest to keep the presenter cool in the heat. The vest is not worn during cold weather.
Some of our costumes have additional overlayers for very cold weather, but they are built into the design. For example, the Mermaid has a separate bodice lined in wool to be worn over the sequin-and-net bodice of the dress, and has earmuffs decorated with hair wefts to look as though they are a part of her wig.
Don’t forget - wear comfortable, waterproof, slip-resistant shoes, just like us. You can always cover sneakers with spats or ice skate covers to match your costume.
Visibility is key when it comes to creating a costume. Many of our costumes feature waterproof lighting which can be an added safety feature for costumes worn in the dark. We use decorative fairy lights, like those used for special outdoor events, which have waterproof battery packs. The lighting is sewn into channels under a sheer decorative layer or tacked into the costume with the battery packs easily accessible at the waistband.
If you are wearing a mask, practice wearing it in low lighting before wearing it outside. You can cut away the eye holes in plastic masks or extend your peripheral vision by swapping out sheer jersey eye holes in soft masks with tulle or net and use makeup around your eyes to disguise the transition.
Halloween costumes and accessories don’t have to be brand new. Try repurposing and upcycling old clothing by dyeing it and then adding trim to give texture. This year our female pirate costumes are repurposed 18th century dresses from stock that were dyed, altered, and trimmed to fit the theme. A past mermaid costume net cape was repurposed as trim in the yellow ochre pirate’s dress by dyeing it and stitching it to the peplum to create texture.
Is your costume’s color not quite right or the fabric can’t be dyed? Try using fabric paint and a sponge to gently tone down the color. The Bad Fairy wings were originally a bright green metallic lace, but we sponge painted over the material with emerald green, spruce green, and navy fabric paints to create a darker ombre effect to match the rest of the costume. But watch that paint - some must be heat set, while others can take 24-48 hours to fully dry.
Still looking for costume inspiration? Try taking a stroll down our pumpkin-lit path this month during Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village. You never know which character may ignite the Halloween maker in you.
Anne Suchyta Devlin is Senior Manager of the Studio at The Henry Ford.
During the first weekend of September, Greenfield Village celebrated the exciting sounds, scents, and sights of hundreds of vintage vehicles from the 1890s through 1932 during the 63rd annual Old Car Festival, America’s longest running antique car show. Many proud antique vehicle owners not only bring their cars, but get into the spirit of the event by dressing to match their car’s era which adds to the special ambience of this particular weekend long event.
Annually on the Saturday night of the festival, many visitors gather at the reviewing stand near the Thomas Edison statue to listen the talented Hotel Savarine Society Orchestra perform many of the popular songs of the 1920s while watching a group of energetic and enthusiastic dancers outfitted in elegant mid-1920s period clothing perform such dances as the Charleston, foxtrot and tango. Just as all the reproduction clothing and accessories in Greenfield Village are researched, designed and created on sight by The Clothing Studio of The Henry Ford, so are the vintage looks worn by the dancers.
This year, The Clothing Studio team worked collaboratively with the Creative Programs staff to create a more formal, “dressed up” head-to-toe 1920s look for the Old Car Festival dancers than in years past. The Roaring Twenties represented a break with traditions and the start to the modern age. It was a prosperous and exuberant time in history and, of course, the fashions of the time reflected this vibrancy. One of our challenges with creating these period accurate looks was that the clothing and accessories were not just for show – they also needed to be functional and durable since the dancers would be strolling through the village prior to spending two very active hours dancing outside.
Since men’s formal wear has generally changed little in over a hundred years, male dancers were elegantly dressed in a mix of black tuxedo styles which were appropriate for that era and remain stylish today. For formal occasions in the 1920s, men wore their tuxedos with white gloves and (when outdoors) top hats or even bowler hats. Special classically inspired touches such as suspenders, French cuffs with cufflinks and shoe spats helped to create an authentic look for each of our gentleman dancers.
As for the ladies, The Clothing Studio focused on many of the fashionable trends of the era celebrating new-found freedoms women enjoyed in the 1920s ranging from the right to vote to more relaxed fashions which finally freed women from the constraints of the corset. Bare arms and the appearance of bare legs with nude colored seamed stockings as well as shorter skirt lengths were visible signs of new celebrated relaxed attitudes. Some of the trends featured in the stunning outfits worn by our Old Car Festival female dancers included beaded fabrics, tiered shirts, drop waists, straight simple silhouettes and embellished shoes.
If you missed the vintage cars and fashions featured at this year’s Old Car Festival in Greenfield Village, be sure to mark your calendar for next year’s 64th annual Old Car Festival in September. Every year there is always a different mix of amazing vintage cars (and fashion) to enjoy.
Written by Tracy Donohue, General Manager, The Clothing Studio at The Henry Ford. Photos by Lindsey Grudnicki.
From Daggett Farm to Maddox Family Home, a big part of the magic and history of The Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village is, without a doubt, the clothing. Visitors, members and new employees are often in awe of the amazing variety of period clothing items we produce. The scope of work is immense: clothing and textiles for daily programs, seasonal activities like historic base ball and Hallowe'en, and special events such as Motor Muster, Ragtime, Old Car Festival and Holiday Nights. How all of this wonderful clothing actually gets to Greenfield Village remains a bit of a mystery to the typical guest as well as to many employees of The Henry Ford!
Tucked away on the second floor of Lovett Hall behind a nondescript set of doors, The Clothing Studio is one of the well-kept secrets and hidden gems of The Henry Ford. Between period clothing and uniforms, The Clothing Studio covers over 250 years of fashion (from 1760 to present day) and is the premier museum costume shop in the country. No other museum does what we do at The Henry Ford. It's often surprising to visitors of The Clothing Studio that our own employees actually research, design, develop and create most of our period clothing and textiles onsite. Our talented, dedicated, and productive team with a passion for fashion and historical accuracy is comprised of two full-time staff members, 13 part-time staff members, and a small group of valued volunteers. Together we clothe nearly 800 people a year in multiple outfits of period clothing, costumes, and uniforms.
When it comes to work flow, there really is no downtime in The Clothing Studio. Work on the April opening of Greenfield Village begins before the Holiday Nights program ends with the sewing of hundreds of stock garments for period clothing sites to prepare for hundreds of fitting sessions of new and current employees. Once Greenfield Village is clothed for the opening, the preparation for summer programming begins with a big ramp up to mid-June, with Motor Muster and programs from “Simply Gershwin” to our summer stroller program. In addition to the regular workload, there are also unexpected requests, such as providing clothing for multiple Henry Ford characters for the 2013 North American Auto Show or sewing display curtains for Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s exhibit in the museum.
Every year we strive to not only maintain our high standard of period clothing and textiles, but to improve upon them with research and special training. The Studio staff works collaboratively with many internal departments to insure research, development, and execution of the best, most historically accurate clothing and accessories to help create an inspirational and authentic experience for our guests. While some clothing or textiles changes in Greenfield Village are quite noticeable, others are subtle. In addition to the typical clothing and accessories updates for new staff and replacement clothing for longtime employees, here are some of the new things you will see from the talented hands of the Clothing Studio staff:
Games on the Green staff and Strollers will have new clothing items reflecting the targeted date change from 1900 to 1912. In this summer’s initial phase-in to 1912, look for new, narrower skirts and fancier white blouses for the women and new replacement linen suits, sweater vests and knickers for some of the men. Additional updates are planned for 2014.
New full aprons in J.R. Jones General Store. The aprons will provide more protection and thus increase the longevity of the period dresses underneath.
New button-front rain slickers for Firestone Farm in black and yellow – both historically accurate for 1885.
Carriage drivers will have the option of new wider brim hats with decorative ribbon trim for improved sun coverage.
New headwear options for women in the house at Susquehanna Plantation including head wraps and day caps (1860).
The female Greenfield Village Singers will have newly made, print dresses (same design) to replace worn dresses from previous seasons (1920s).
Town Hall hosts will have new uniforms and pianists will have new black and white outfits for the “Simply Gershwin” program (1930).
Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum Uniforms
New replacement Ranger uniforms (1912).
Improved functional and professional uniform clothing items for Creative Programs support staff.
Protective fire-resistant coveralls for Pottery Shop staff.
Graphic logo cotton t-shirts for Glass Shop staff.
New evening event museum uniforms with a dressier, more formal evening appearance, in a sophisticated color palette of black, charcoal, burgundy and white. The new uniforms were designed to complement yet differentiate evening museum staff from Catering and Visitor Services uniforms.
New/replacement Discovery Camp and Aspiring Innovators Camp counselor uniform polo shirts in a lighter weight material and with a new light aqua color.
Other textile products
New replacement puppets for Games on the Green summer programming.
New bat bags for historic baseball.
Whether on a farm, in a fine home or on the street, functional and fashionable clothing and textiles have consistently influenced the lives of people throughout history. In today’s world, with so much emphasis on fashion and home decor, we know our guests pay a lot of attention to our presentations and environments. From the second floor in Lovett Hall, The Clothing Studio is proud to be an important and dynamic part of The Henry Ford, playing a significant role in helping enrich educational experiences and delivering “wow” to millions of guests.
Tracy Donohue is General Manager of The Clothing Studio at The Henry Ford