Costume Shopping…

… out of “season” and on a budget.

When I was young, my mom was highly involved in the drama department at my school. I learned everything I know from her and want to share some tips from what I remember and my own recent experience.

Last week, I spent most of the afternoon with a friend of mine costume shopping for the Arizona Renaissance Festival. We visited three stores and got (almost) full costumes for five people.

A really important first step to costume shopping is knowing what look you’re going for. Using the Renaissance Festival as example, you should decide if you’re looking for a male or female. If it’s a guy you’re shopping for, will he be a knight? peasant? musketeer? pirate? You should go through the same steps for a female.

If you have no idea what looks right, ask the movie industry. In this case, what you see in the movies is absolutely true! Most movies go for authenticity when it comes to costume design. Copying any pirate from Pirates of the Caribbean is a good way to go if a pirate is what you want to be. Otherwise, choose from the right time period.

Those are the ways to find what you’re looking for. Here are some tips to buy what you’re looking for. Friendly warning, you will not find everything in one store! If you can or do, then you are very lucky.

You might think starting at a costume store is the best bet. This is not true. A costume store will have high quality pieces if that’s what you really need but will also have good accessories and detail pieces. A costume store is probably the last place you want to visit.

My friend and I actually started our shopping at a Ross store. She was going to the festival as a gypsy while I was just a peasant. The peasant skirt is fairly easy to find, but we were having trouble finding ones long enough. We walked through the dress section and actually found tube top dresses that could be worn around the waist for our nice long skirts. She found a bright orange one (perfect for a gypsy) while I took home a light, bright green one. This is one example of using a bit of imagination to make what you find work for you. At Ross, my friend also found mary jane type eco-friendly/all natural shoes that matched her gypsy look.

Our next stop was Goodwill. Here we decided to look for the men’s costumes. We got very lucky at this store in a variety of different ways. It took quite a bit of time, looking and relooking, but we were able to find two men’s shirts (one of which was actually linen), a great pair of drawstring pants, a leather vest, pirate belt, dragon boa (best find ever!), and really great costume jewelry. Although the jewelry cost my friend more than normal (three pieces for around $5 each), the dragon boa was only $2.99. I walked out with a costume for my husband (shirt and pants) for just under $15.

I hope this gives you an idea of what to do and how to do it when you need to find the perfect costume.

Happy hunting!



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