Up in Flames –1920s Flammable Halloween Costumes

Up in Flames –1920s Flammable Halloween Costumes
Brittany West

Linda Seccaspina we actually used your beautiful gate as our Halloween backdrop last year for Princess Bride-photo credit Jack Loves Mary Photography

A little girl who was who was celebrating Halloween last night probably owes her life from the prompt action of the clerk of the Carleton Place C.P.R. office. The child’s paper Halloween costume caught on fire from a Jack o Lantern with a candle in it which one of her friend’s was carrying. Passing by station while trick or treating the clerk saw the girl’s dress blazing and quickly tore it off before she was burned. He took her to the train station and called her parents asking to bring her another costume. November 1 1928, Carleton Place Herald

AUTHORS NOTE? What??? Really?


One consistent news story from during the mind-20th-century rise in popularity of Halloween costumes is the safety aspect. Several deaths occurred due to costumes catching fire, whether by matches or candles in pumpkins, as the cheap synthetic fabrics of the masks and garments were highly flammable. Other warnings regarding the restricted vision of face masks were repeated year after year, with face paint being seeing as the far safer option, along with repeated suggestions to replace candles in pumpkins with a flashlight.

Crepe paper costumes | Vintage halloween costume, Vintage costumes, 1920s  halloween costume

Costumes and some clothes made out of paper and some gauze, combined with candles and gaslight in a world before electricity, led to a multitude of children and women being taken by the flame. Matthews David wrote that in 1860, British medical journal, the Lancet estimated that 3,000 women in one year died by fire.

The most vulnerable to death by fire may have been ballet dancers, who often wore tarlatan and gauze costumes and who danced close to gaslight every time they were on stage. It wasn’t just the fabric, but also the shape of the dresses that caused women’s clothing to erupt in flames– like hoop underskirts.. they became a ‘ring of fire”.

Vintage Halloween costumes that will make your skin crawl - Insider

The only commercial costumes available in the early 20th century were paper masks or aprons for children. The goal wasn’t necessarily to look like a ghost or a goblin, but to look creepy and hide the identity of the person beneath the mask. Disguises were especially important for kids and teens, who often spent Halloween night playing tricks by throwing flour at people, stealing neighbours’ fences or even stealing dead bodies.

How to Make a REAL 1920s Halloween Costume…if you dare! | A Smile And A Gun

The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
03 Nov 1898, Thu  •  Page 2

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The Carleton Place Halloween Parade 1958 –Lorraine Nephin

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About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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