In a large mixing bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed 30 seconds or until softened. Add about half of the flour and all of the sugar, molasses, egg, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat until thoroughly combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat or stir in the remaining flour. Divide the dough in half. Cover and chill about 3 hours or until the dough is easy to handle.
Grease a cookie sheet, then set it aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll each half of the dough to a 1/8-inch thickness. Using 3- to 4-inch people-shaped cookie cutters, cut the dough into shapes. Place 1-inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 5 to 6 minutes or until the edges are firm. Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet for 1 minute. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack. Cool.
In a heavy small saucepan heat and stir the vanilla coating and 1 tablespoon shortening over low heat until melted. In another saucepan heat and stir the chocolate pieces and the remaining 1 tablespoon shortening over low heat until melted. Dip the hands, feet, and tops of the heads of the cookies in either the vanilla or chocolate mixture. Place on a wire rack until set. If desired, dip cookies again in the contrasting mixture; place on a wire rack until set.
In a small mixing bowl combine the sifted powdered sugar, the vanilla, and enough milk to make a frosting of drizzling or spreading consistency. Use the icing to pipe details onto cookies. Makes about 36 cookies.