What costume to wear for Halloween - Uncle Sam or Shrek?

Donna Dauria walks by a waterfall of Kool-Aid-colored feather boas, past the deluxe beehive wigs, and points to a pair of feathered angel wings hanging above them. "We've been selling a lot of wings," says Ms. Dauria, the operations manager at Boston Costume. She says angels - as well as other traditional costumes - are in this

Halloween. Everything from witches to cat costumes are flying off the shelves.

Traditional is what Americans want in the wake of Sept. 11. The appetite for gore is out; American pride is in. Judging by the increase in costumes representing construction workers, police officers, and firemen to Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam, Americans are showing their US spirit.

"They're doing the red, white, and blue, but being creative with it," says Dauria, who adds: "In the last couple of years, we've been consciously gearing down on the gore."

Diana Krohn, of, says costume trends are driven by what's on television: Children tend to imitate pop culture.

"The images of real-life people being on TV has influenced their interest," Ms. Krohn says.

The most popular costume of 2001 is too difficult to name until the week of the 31st, Krohn says, but Shrek (above), Spy Kids, Josie and the Pussy Cats, and Bob the Builder (a British cartoon) are all popular this year.

Disguise, a San Diego-based costume supplier, asked parents what their children preferred this year. The No. 1 response was a princess, followed by a pumpkin, Power Rangers, Winnie the Pooh, Barbie, and Pokemon.

Even with a shaky economy, some customers continue to spend wads of cash on costumes. While the 2000 American Express Retail Index showed that the average budget for Halloween costumes is $27, Krohn says parents spend on average $20 for their child's costume and about $50 for their own.

Dauria says people are even willing to shell out $425 for the regal feathered Venetian carnival masks (ordered from Venice, Italy). Dauria says some customers wear them for Halloween, and then hang them on their wall as art the rest of the year.

Krohn finds that women this year are into the retro look from the 1940s: Marilyn Monroe, Betty Boop. Men prefer more lighthearted costumes such as TV's Crocodile Hunter.

One thing Krohn didn't expect: people buying costumes for their pets. Superman, Batman, vampires, and angels are all popular pet costumes.

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