city Hallowe'en - only a little scary

Hallowe'en! A festival of carefully chaperoned parties and pre-school parades, little kids escorted by their moms, older siblings, nannies, to other floors in their building where apartment dwellers have agreed to receive trick-or-treaters, spooky but artistic and tasteful lobby decor, shamelessly costumed dogs and cats, creative and profit-motivated store windows...
And of course, our world-famous Hallowe'en parades, the most famous of which is the Greenwich Village parade, so ancient in origins that it predates the gentrification and "dormification" of the Village. The costumes are crafted by experts, the wit is sharp and dangerous, and the crowds are like New Year's Eve in Times Square, only better dressed. Also like New Year's Eve, many streets are blocked to contain the crowds. Oh, I would love to lament the Village and the West Village of my teen years, when there were affordable music venues and philosophical coffee shops and bar entrances in little alleys, instead of flagship international stores and flight capital investors and Hollywood people who use their apartments or town houses a few weeks a year... Not the time, not the place. Not here, not now.
The Parade was once one of the few places where people who could then be described only by euphemism and innuendo could stride down the street, openly and in public, in costumes that expressed what they were about. In New York, at least, that's no longer so, the whole city is open, and that's a serious improvement.
However, witches, demons and vampires still lurk, even the laundering of their other-worldly powers and pursuits by popular media hasn't completely sanitized them (see this wonderful article by Stacy Schiff in the New York Times for more on the watering down of witchcraft).
Even today, with close observation, the knowledgeable may discern the presence of strange beings walking and flying among us.

In adding a touch or more of the Gothic, the bizarre, the slyly referential, the exotic, to our attire, whether it's Hallowe'en or only another workday, are we celebrating the original and non-conformist in ourselves, or are we just brightening up the woman in the mirror? And really, does it even matter?

well, c'mon, you didn't think I was going to let the coincidental appearance of feathered minis and floppy shreds of leather right before Hallowe'en pass without comment, did you?

The clever pictures of creatures dressed for the holiday illustrated the NY Times article to which I linked above. Other costumes shown here did not.


  1. What a great post, as usual. I am rather a Halloween Grinch.
    I am looking forward to your lament about the old village.
    And, you forgot to add the caption for the skirt, above right. May I?
    " This covetable piece does double duty on the ski slopes or at a board meeting. We like it dressed up with work boots and a chef's hat."

  2. I've never read a serious analysis of "Bewitched" before! So the image of the black garbed witch with the pointed hat is fairly recent? Imagine the reaction in the late 1930's to the wicked witch of the west.

    Not a fan of those costumey clothes, but I will admit to a 3euro half mask purchased in Venice last week.

    1. yes, part of that scholarly discourse definitely reflects the "history begins with me" school of thought. I remember seeing woodcuts depicting crones in pointy hats, and pinterest is coming down with "nostalgic" illustrations from the turn of the last century and earlier. And goblins! please let's not forget about goblins!

      I love the Venetian masks, and I admit to owning a set of 6 "woodland sprite" masks that I grabbed on clearance when for some unfathomable reason they didn't sell out at Pottery Barn, where they were being marketed as New Year's Eve party attire. Go figure. Anyway, I figured that for $5 for all 6, they might come in handy if I ever had a mask emergency. So far I haven't, but ya never know.

    2. Wff,
      You had better hope our favorite copywriter doesn't see your mask comment. We will be reading " we love the insouciant ease of a mask with cargo pants for a black-tie dinner" in the copy for the next roll out.

    3. Well, that would definitely qualify as a mask emergency.

  3. Great post. And I loved the Times article. I lament the commercialization of this holiday. We have these massive Halloween superstores and yet few kids go door to door anymore. I miss the old days!

    1. Thanks, Jen, I miss little kids in costume, too.


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