In the 1920s, Prohibition and the availability of the submachine gun made gangsters glamorous and dangerous figures. In addition to their violent exploits, gangsters were known for their elegant fashion. Movies such as "The Untouchables," "White Heat" and "Bugsy Malone" have made gangster costumes (which you can re-create at home) popular with adults and children.
Costumes for Boys
Buy an appropriately sized dark-coloured suit at a thrift store or resale shop, along with a white dress shirt, a dark-coloured tie, dark glasses and black leather shoes. If possible, buy an appropriately sized fedora (a costume shop may carry this item).
Use hair gel to slick back the boy's hair. Use an eyebrow pencil or other dark pencil to draw in a dark moustache. Wrap a piece of foil around one tooth. Give the child a toy machine gun to carry and fake gold rings to wear. Have him carry toy gold coins or gold-wrapped chocolate coins in his pocket.
Costumes for Girls
Girls have three options. One option is to adapt the boy's costume described above.
A second option is to adopt the look of Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker in "Bonnie and Clyde": The girl can wear flat shoes, a straight skirt, a short-sleeved sweater and a beret. Her hair should be combed smooth or tied back. She can carry a toy machine gun and a box of candy cigarettes.
A third option is to create a flapper costume: The child can wear T-strap shoes with a slight heel, as well as a straight, sleeveless sheath dress that's slightly longer than knee length. It can be plain or lacy, but a dress with fringes or sequins is best: Look in thrift stores, resale shops or costume shops. Accent the look with long gloves, a feathered headband with lots of spangles, and lots of long, beaded strand necklaces or a feather boa.
In addition to the right clothing, the child's demeanour is essential to carrying off the gangster look. Gangsters should try to look tough, shady and/or casually cool. A flapper should appear either elegant, devil-may-care or slightly bubbleheaded.
Gangster movies are notable for their violence and glamorised depiction of gambling, alcohol, smoking and other questionable behaviours. Parents may want to preview gangster movies before allowing their children to watch them or to model the behaviour depicted.