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This Halloween In Kansas City, Flappers Are Hot, Cultural Appropriation Is Not

Michelle Tyrene Johnson
A spooky prop hangs from the ceiling at Kansas City Costume Company

Witches and vampires are classic Halloween costumes and perennial favorites, but costume shop owners say Halloween trends also reflect what's happening outside of the holiday  – such as the last Presidential election and when the Kansas City Royals won the World Series. 

So what's in this year in Kansas City?

The roaring '20s

“We do a lot of couple’s costumes, and a lot of them are going with 1920s speakeasy, like flappers and gangsters,” says Miranda Brand, a manager at Kansas City Costume Company. Brand says this theme has been very popular this year.

Credit Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR
Darren Hinesley, the owner of Kansas City Costume, models a Zorro costume.

“It's always more fun to do something if it seems like it’s wrong.”

“We have seen a lot of people avoiding anything having to do with politics,” Brand says. With heated midterm elections just around the corner, she says many people are trying to avoid getting into fights while enjoying their spooky fun.

Brand says adults rather than buying a full costume have been buying wigs and capes as pieces to create do-it-yourself designs.  

Superheroes are always super popular

Maria Heil, the owner of Costume Depot, says that she too has noticed the 1920s trending this year, but she doesn’t see much variation in the themes that people are going for this year.

“Every year is almost the same. It’s not much difference – Superwoman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Batgirl.”

Heil says another favorite, for both children and adults, is dressing up as a police officer. 

Leatha LaGuardia of U.S. Toy says the movie “The Greatest Showman” has inspired costumes for children, particularly young girls who want to rock the big ringleader hat.  

LaGuardia says other hot costume themes are characters from Star Wars and Harry Potter but the movie “Black Panther” has been a strong newcomer.

Credit Michelle Tyrene Johnson / KCUR
Miranda Brand stands near some of the Halloween costumes and assorted props at Kansas City Costume Company.

Cultural appreciation, not appropriation

One issue that all the stores agree on is that, overall, there are more people are aware and careful choosing their costumes so as not to be unnecessarily offensive.

“I don’t see any Indian costumes being sold this year,” Heil says.

LaGuardia says it’s about people needing to be mindful of their choices and how to execute their ideas in a culturally sensitive way.

“We don’t need to change our skin color,” LaGuardia says. “We can just dress like the character.” For example, she saw a white customer dressed as Michonne, a black female character from the television show “The Walking Dead” and people could recognize who she was supposed to be without the use of blackface.

Michelle Tyrene Johnson is a reporter at KCUR 89.3 and part of the public radio collaborative Sharing America, covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Kansas City, St. Louis, Hartford, Connecticut, and Portland, Oregon.

Michelle is a reporter covering race, identity and culture and is an assistant talk show producer.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
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