We do not know a great deal about costume trends in different countries. Here our experience is largely American. A reader writes, "I have seen many pictures of acrobat/circus performers dressed in strange costumes from the mid-19th century 1800s--about as unlike typical Victorian dress as one could get. I read somewhere that they may have been dressed this way to appear like court jesters from medieval times. Do you think there is any truth in this?" We have seen those portraits as well. The first we have seen were CDVs from the 1860s. These costumes may have been worn earlier and we don't see them because because was not as common. We do not think that these were medieval costumes, but rather circus or theatrical performers, but we have very little actual information. A good example is Basil Kite, an American boy, probably during the 1870s. we begin to see well-to-do people wearing fancy dress costumes in the late-19th century. These were elaborate, probably bery expensive costumes. This probably reflects the increasing affluence of industrial America. We are not entirely sure how they were selected. Nor do we know just how they were used. Some people may have dressed up primasrily for a hotograph. We think, however, that the primasry purpose was fancy dress parties. And many people wanted a permanent momento. A good example is Howard Lee in 1892. Another interesting aspect of the American fancy costumes we have seen is their un-Anerican nature. We don't see many Ameriucan characters like the Pilgrims, Native Asmericans are historical fifures. We do see mostly European figures and foreign costumes. We also begin to see ready-made costumes in the mail order catalogs. They were generial characters such as: clowns, firemen, Indians, policemen, soldiers, ect. We note Uncle Sam costumes in the early 20th century. Most seem home made. There were more offerings for boys than girls. This changed further after World War I with the growth of the radio and movie industries. Children wanted costumes of favorite characters. The preminent American holiday for which costumes are worn is Halloween trick or treating. This was, however, a destinctly American celebration, although in recent years it has begun to become popular in other countries. An early popular costume was Palmer Cox's Brownies. Nost Halloween costumes were home made, but we begin to see stire-brought costumes in the early 20th century.
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