DC costume shops tell all about Kennedy, Chelsea

How’s this for an intriguing visual: Sen. Edward Kennedy once dressed up as a penguin. 

The Massachusetts Democrat, who died in 2009, really did once don the waddling wardrobe, claims Rip Claasen, manager of Backstage Inc. The costume impresario, who has run the Capitol Hill shop for 22 years, discloses that the Lion of the Senate didn’t even rent his apparel for trick-or-treating purposes: “It was not even for Halloween. It was for a special event.”

A young Chelsea Clinton didn’t have to draw inspiration for one of her Halloween getups from the Arctic — she instead opted to go the historical, “Let them eat cake” route. Claasen says Clinton, while still a kid living in the White House, chose a Marie Antoinette outfit from his store.

 Backstage Inc. isn’t the only D.C. business with high-profile customers. Lorenzo Caltagirone, owner of Total Fright in Georgetown, remembers Jordan’s royal family was “like a kid in a candy store” after arriving at his shop last year with an entourage in tow. On the family’s Halloween checklist? Fake corn and other fall crops. Caltagirone says one of the royals “just pointed to products and I just packed them up.”

 While the Washington special-occasion clothing kings are reticent about divulging any more info about their VIPs — Claasen says they’ve included “loads of senators and their wives,” along with “a lot of Hill staffers” — he does maintain that “their costumes are always tasteful.”