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.
Visit Greenfield Village and you can’t help but notice the clothing. From the colonial-era linen garments worn by the Daggett Farmhouse staff as they go about their daily chores to the 1920s flapper-style dresses donned by the village singers, or even the protective clothing worn by the pottery shop staff in the Liberty Craftworks district — all outfits in Greenfield Village are designed to add to the guest experience. In many cases, these tangible elements help accurately showcase the time period being interpreted.
“Clothing is such a big part of history,” said Tracy Donohue, general manager of The Henry Ford’s Clothing Studio, which creates most of The Henry Ford’s reproduction apparel and textiles for daily programs as well as seasonal events. “It’s a huge part of how we live even today. The period clothing we provide helps bring to life the stories we tell in the village and enhances the experience for our visitors.”
The Clothing Studio is tucked away on the second floor of Lovett Hall. It provides clothing for nearly 800 people a year in accurate period garments, costumes and uniforms, and covers more than 250 years of fashion — from 1760 to the present day — making the studio one of the premier museum period clothing and costume shops in the country.
The scope and flow of work in the studio is immense, from outfitting staff and presenters for the everyday to clothing hundreds for extra seasonal programs such as Historic Base Ball, Hallowe’en and Holiday Nights. Work on the April opening of Greenfield Village, for example, begins before the Holiday Nights program ends in December, with the sewing of hundreds of stock garments and accessories in preparation for hundreds of fitting sessions for new and current employees.
“When it comes to historic clothing, our goal is to create garments accurate to the period — what our research indicates people in that time and place wore,” said Donohue. “For our group, planning for Hallowe’en is an especially fun challenge. We have more creative license with costumes for this event than we typically do with our daily period clothing.”
For Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village, the studio staff researches new characters and can work on the design and development for more elaborate wearables for months. In addition to new costume creation, each year existing outfits are refreshed and/or reinvented. Last year, for example, the studio added the Queen of Hearts, Opera Clown and a number of other new characters to the Hallowe’en catalog. Plus, they freshened the look of the beloved dancing skeletons and the popular pirates.
Historic clothing, period photographs, prints, trade catalogs and magazines from the Archive of American Innovation provide a wealth of on-site resources to explore the styles, clothing construction and fabrics worn by people decades or centuries ago. Each year, Jeanine Head Miller, curator of domestic life, and Fran Faile, textile conservator, host the studio’s talented staff for a field trip to the collections storage area for an up-close look at original clothing from a variety of time periods.
“Getting the details right really matters,” Miller said. “Clothing is part of the powerful immersive experience we provide in Greenfield Village. Having people in accurate period clothing in the homes and the buildings helps our visitors understand and immerse themselves in the past, and think about how it connects to their own lives today.”
Did You Know? The Clothing Studio has a comprehensive computerized inventory management system, which tracks close to 50,000 items.
During each night of Hallowe’en, Clothing Studio staff are on call, checking on costumed presenters throughout the evening to ensure they look their best.
What They're Wearing Under There At Greenfield Village, costume accuracy goes well beyond what’s on the surface. Depending on the time period they’re interpreting, women may also wear chemises, corsets and stays.
“Our presenters have a lot of pride in wearing the clothing and wearing it correctly,” said Donohue.
While the undergarments function in the service of historic accuracy, corsets also provide back support and chemises help absorb sweat. Natural fibers in cotton fabrics breathe, so they’re often cooler to wear than modern-day synthetic fabrics. And when the weather runs to extreme cold conditions, layers of period-appropriate outerwear help keep village staff warm. The staff at the Clothing Studio also sometimes turns to a few of today’s tricks to keep staff comfortable. Wind- and water-resistant performance fabrications are often built into Hallowe’en costumes to offer a level of protection from outdoor elements.
“It can be 100 degrees in the summer and 10 degrees on a cold Holiday Night,” Donohue said. “Our staff is out in the elements, and they still have to look amazing. We care about the look and overall visual appearance of the outfit, of course, but we also care about the person wearing it.”
From The Henry Ford Magazine. This story originally ran in the June-December 2016 issue.
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 Mattox 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 ensure 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