Skip to content

Drapers and Gosselins and Madoffs, oh my?

on October 30, 2009

Does Don Draper scare you? Those rugged, tall-and-silent good looks … the Eisenhower-era hairdo … the snifter of whiskey before lunch, the smoldering Lucky Strike hidden behind his big wooden Madison Avenue desk …

Surely Draper, the 1960s ad executive portrayed by Jon Hamm on AMC’s hit series Mad Men, isn’t the most ghoulish sight you’ll see this Halloween. But roll over, Grim Reaper. According to local reports, pomaded hair and modish charcoal suits will be much in evidence Saturday night as trick-or-treaters trawl the North Oakland streets for candy.

“One of the more popular ideas this year is the Mad Men theme,” said Patrick Lynch, manager at College Avenue’s retro-focused Pretty Penny, where you can nab an old suit and simple tie for around $50. “We’ve done quite a bit of old suits.”

Lynch said the store’s supply of dresses is also slowly being depleted as locals make plans for Halloween night inspired by Draper’s wife Betty, played by January Jones. “It’s either that or 1920s flapper girls,” Lynch said.

These aren’t the kind of costumes that frighten in the conventional way. In fact, the only thing freakish about Don Draper is the amount of whiskey and number of cigarettes he can consume in the course of an episode. And Betty Draper is calendar-girl pretty and freakish principally in her severe emotional repression. But trends in DIY costuming tend to follow those in national media, and this year, Mad Men is at the top of the list. Last year, with the election upcoming, Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber were out in numbers. This year, along with Mad Men, reality show hit John and Kate Plus 8 is likely to be well-represented on streets and at parties, nationwide.

“I’ve had a lot of people come in and ask about John and Kate Plus 8,” said Ted Stinson of Stagecraft Studios on Alcatraz.

Kate Gosselin is another costume concept this year that goes more for the loathsome effect than the frightful.  Gosselin did give birth to a scary number of kids—a set of fraternal twins on top of sextuplets. Gosselin, a self-proclaimed “easy target” for mockery and ridicule, has a distinct hairstyle usually described as a “reverse mullet”—long in front, short in back. Blonde wigs mimicking Gosselin’s do have been heralded by blogs as a popular 2009 Halloween costume. On Thursday, was sold out of Gosselin wigs, which retail at $16.99 but were going for as much as $35.31 on eBay.

But in Oakland, you may not see as many Gosselins as you would on the streets of New York, where the wigs are being sold in stores. Neither Stagecraft nor any other costume store contacted for this article lists the item for sale.

Stinson said that he was surprised more shoppers hadn’t come in asking for Michael Jackson accoutrements—wigs, or an old military jacket. Stinson had expected the community would come out in force in the first Halloween following the King of Pop’s unexpected death. And despite the many headlines he’s had this year, Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff’s business suits might be too drab for costume material.

CVS and other big-box Oakland stores stock perennial costume favorites like witches, vampires, princesses, and Power Rangers. At the Broadway CVS pharmacy on Wednesday night, Montclair resident Evon Williams was shopping for the upcoming holiday with her three daughters Aniya, 10, Elizabeth, 7, and Nathalie, 6. Aniya is going to dress as a princess-slash-bloody prom date, Elizabeth is going as a vampire-slash-devil, and Nathalie as a witch, according to their mother. To the Halloween veteran, those costumes might seem as dull as the Wall Street suits worn by Madoff. But the family already had costumes in their possession—at least half the battle in Halloween preparation. What brought them out Wednesday was the search for the one time-tested method for adding pizzazz to any costume: fake blood.

“I’m going to squirt it all over me,” proclaimed Elizabeth.


  1. A Rockridge Life on October 31, 2009 at 9:14 am

    HA HA! Amazing

  2. A Rockridge Life on October 31, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Pretty Penny is the best!

  3. alex chilton on November 4, 2009 at 10:59 am

    The Pretty Penny has the best selection at the best prices!!!
    5488 college ave. oakland. (Rockridge)
    CHECK IT OUT!!!!

  4. dah7lin on November 5, 2009 at 11:44 am

    This article is very informative as well as being a delightful and funny read.

Oakland North welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Oakland North assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content.

Photo by Basil D Soufi
Oakland North

Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to:

Latest Posts

Scroll To Top