BY: KIVA HEWETT
Every September, warehouses stocked with thousands of costumes turn up almost out of nowhere. People flock to these annual marketplaces only to purchase costumes-in-a-bag that are made cheaply, priced expensively, not to mention bland and unoriginal. Let's face it, we're students and we're broke. But we still want to look good, right? And no one wants to run into their store-bought twin while we're out partying it up on Halloween! So, to avoid that awful situation, here are several alternatives to those flimsy, cliché little numbers.Customized costumes that are available to rent are well made, unique, and much more fun. Bianca's Historic Costumes is a good place to check out. This store specializes in bulky, theatrical guises from the Renaissance period and other historical times. Fun fact: the owners were once a part of the old Shakespeare Company! Bianca's is available year-round for events like Southern California's Renaissance Faire. Their website has a little extra something, too: it gives links to information on the costumes' specific time periods and the fashions from back then. Thanks to that, you'll know what you are talking about when someone asks you what you're dressed up as, and you will have one heck of an authentic-looking costume. With just only two weeks left, and most likely a starving-student budget, a customized rental may not be the best way to go. Rental reservations usually have to be booked months in advance and they can be pricey, starting at about $100 and going up to even $500 to $1,000 if you want to get really fancy.
Specialty costume shops are fantastic; they're a little on the expensive side but still nowhere near the prices of the custom-made ones. They do carry the "in-a-bag" variety, but they have a significant difference in quality from the 100% polyester, highly flammable types. The Leg Avenue and California Costumes brands are made from nylon and cotton blend materials, and the prices range from $30- $50. The InCharacter brand is almost double that price, but that is because their costumes are double the quality with nicer materials like silk, velvet and lace. That is still a bit more than some of us want to spend, but it is usually worth the extra comfort and quality. Besides, the details on the clothes are gorgeous.
Party Props has been in Long Beach for about 18 years and sits at 5114 East 2nd Street. This store has everything, no joke. Alongside its many costumes, there are masks, wigs, and accessories galore. With 15 different pirate ensembles, combined with the variety of props to choose from, you and your friends can pose as a band of pirates armed and ready to commandeer the Queen Mary for the night.
The specialty shops usually sell professional makeup; Party Props has Ben Nye and Kryolan products. Both brands are widely used on stage and in films, whether on Broadway or in Hollywood. They make stage blood, liquid latex, prosthetics, fake wounds, and stage make-up that won't melt away. Speaking of prosthetics, the back room has a few of the more. unmentionable kind.
If you try out those stores, you can get an awesome costume in time, but we still have those student-sized pocketbooks. For an even cheaper option, the best bet is to make your own costume. Not handy with a needle and thread? Well, it doesn't have to be entirely homemade. Piecing together a costume is fun and easy. Combine some "found" clothes, store-bought accessories, and a few handmade embellishments, and tada! You can have a costume like none other.
Vintage and thrift stores are the best places to start. On 4th Street, between Junipero Avenue and Cherry Avenue, there are tons of secondhand shops. Men and women can sift through racks and racks of funky (in a good way) garments and find something that suits their costume needs. Prices in these stores range from $5 to $70, depending on the item and just how "used" it is. Because these are clothes people actually wore, the quality is decent and they are authentic. An added bonus is that you can wear what you buy on days other than Halloween.. Meow and La Bomba carry playful out-of-the-box varieties that look great as costumes, and the store across the street also has plenty of amazing costumes, too.
However, not all secondhand stores are created equal. Searching in a run-of-the-mill thrift store, such as Goodwill, is usually more tedious since they are less selective about their inventory. The upside to this is that they are super cheap. If you know you have next to nothing to spend on a costume, try Out of the Closet on Pacific Coast Highway and Redondo Avenue, or Society of Saint Paul de Vincent on PCH and Temple. These two places are better organized and have a good selection of original-looking clothes.
Stores that strictly carry vintage items are the more expensive options when it comes to secondhand costumes. You pay for more comfort, authenticity and higher quality. Off of 4th Street, Warehouse 1333 on Redondo Avenue and Anaheim Street has beautiful vintage clothing and costume jewelry. If you make your way in there, be prepared to spend a pretty penny; it might be $160 for 1950s prom dresses, or as much as $200 for an Elizabethan era man's robe and hat. Poodle skirts, however, are only $15, and the $20 Oriental paper umbrellas are pretty tempting. Another option is Vintage Lotus, on 7th Street and Obispo Avenue, which is smaller and has fewer choices, but the costumes are still pretty good.
You can probably put together a great one-of-a-kind costume, accessories and all, for under $50 dollars. The average cost of a store-bought costume plus one extra item is $60. Take your time, make a day of it with your friends and don't get frustrated.
Here are some helpful address and links to aid you in your quest for the perfect costume!
Party Props Website
4th Street Finds
La Bomba- Vintage, 40s - 90s, great coats
2222 E 4th St
Long Beach, CA 90814
Meow- used, vintage, costumes, accessories, sexy and silly
2210 E 4th St
Long Beach, CA 90814
Ben Nye website
Michael's arts and crafts store