I know it has been quite a while – I’ve been otherwise engaged – but I thought I might pop back into the person blog to talk a bit about something near and dear to my heart: Halloween costumes.
I know that mocking each year’s crop Halloween costumes for the most absurd abuse of the the term “sexy” is a pretty standard internet trope, but I thought I might look at things from a much narrower focus – the Salem Witch Trials.
We’ve been doing a bit of window-shopping online (screen shopping? browsing?) for a Halloween costume for the homunculus (she either wants to be a pink fairy or a princess, but not a silly princess, or some sort of flying elf that isn’t mean) and I spotted a costume labeled “Salem Witch”, which is a rather specific designation, since as readers of the Arkham Gazette know, there are a lot more witches than just Salem’s bunch. In fact I managed to track down, on a site that caters more towards adults (i.e. costumes are a side business to lingerie sales; links below might be NSFW depending on your employer), at least 3 costumes marketed as “Salem Witch”. Now, I understand that giving costumes a distinctive tag is necessary (they have 106 items that pop up under a search for “witch”) so I’m not surprised that the most famous incident connected to witchcraft in American history might get used to differentiate ones witch costume from a “sexy vintage witch” (a strapless black pencil-skirt with matching hat and gloves) or a “wicked candy corn witch” (a micro-skirted orange, white, and black dirndl; mini witch hat and thigh-high stockings are included).
Here are our three “Salem Witches”:
Conjure up some magic in this Salem Witch costume featuring a black dress with long draping sleeves, a gathered bust, gold button accents, an attached hood, and an asymmetrical tattered hem. (Pantyhose not included.)
While the idea that Puritans wore black clothes is a myth, I am also quite certain that skirt lengths above the knee did not come into vogue until the 20th century, at least as outerwear. Additionally, the cobwebbed hose, silver buttons, and hood worn by the model might have violated several ruling from the Massachusetts General Court regarding the less wealthy wearing clothing that was too ostentatious – you had to prove you had a worth of at least £200 to get away with such extravagance. I almost suspect they had a box of “black hooded robe costumes” and just slashed off the bottom portion of the skirt, though why this one cost $20 more is still a mystery…
You’ll be causing double the trouble in this sexy Salem Witch costume featuring a long purple dress with attached brown vest and pointed witch hat. (Broom not included.)
This is actually closer to what someone might have worn in 1692, assuming we overlook the curious inclusion of a strap that exists solely to cinch up the skirt. This might be useful to a cartoon rabbit hoping to suddenly stop traffic, but less so among the muddy lanes of colonial Salem.
Our hypothetical witch would probably have worn a bonnet or flat-topped hat called a capotain. The pointy “witch-hat” is an invention of 18th century illustrators looking for a convenient short-hand to tell the viewer that the lady in question (it is always a lady, remember) is a witch.
Cast an everlasting curse on the town with this Bloodstained Salem Witch costume that features a tattered full length dress, white bloodstained collar, “Salem” printed apron, witch hat with buckle and vinyl noose. (Makeup not included).
We’ve got another faux-Puritan look here, with the imagined black and white outfit and a superfluous (and anachronistic buckle). For reasons that elude me, the costume makers also included blood splatters, a bloody hand print, and, perhaps for the sake of perplexed time-travelers, added the words “Salem 1692” in blood on her apron.
I give this costume points, however, for the inclusion of a noose, since so many people persist in thinking witches in New England were executed by being burned. I wouldn’t personally walk around wearing a noose, but I’m probably not the target audience for this costume.
(Actually, I should point out I cannot find any mens’ “witch” costumes – there are dark sorcerers, wizards, and even a few warlocks, but not witches. I guess my plan to go as Giles Corey just won’t pan out.)
Finally, there is one more “Salem Witch” item- the Salem Wedge Pump:
I’m pretty sure no one in Salem was wearing these.