Kensington offers costumes on a budget
Thrift, consignment shops present cheap, creative options for Halloween
Charles E. Shoemaker/The Gazette
When it comes to disguises this Halloween season, you could go as a flapper, or you could actually be a flapper.
So says Maria Peck, the owner of Tiara Day, who recently outfitted a customer at her vintage boutique with a dress that didn't have to pretend to have seen its share of speakeasies.
"It was fabulous," Peck said. "It was an authentic beaded flapper dress and we took vintage millinery feathers and tied a wrap around the feather for the headband."
Kensington has a wealth of places to find authentic Halloween garb that's more heirloom than costume for any budget. Tiara Day, at 10453 Metropolitan Ave., has an extensive selection of authentic items from bygone eras for those willing to pay a little more for authenticity.
Peck carries authentic women's garments from Edwardian and Victorian times to the 21th century, but specializes in the 1920s to 1940s, her favorite era in fashion. She buys from Paris markets and collectors and can assemble head-to-toe costumes that were once just clothes.
"Just recently I did Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany's,' we did her whole outfit," Peck said. She's said she's also recently clothed 1950s Hollywood starlets and even pinup girls. "Those are for the more daring customer."
The shop is not ideal for finding a scary costume, Peck said, though she helped one customer assemble a creepy widow's costume, and carries a wide array of authentic and replica mourning jewelry.
The black cameos with closed eyes "creep some people out," Peck said.
For those looking ahead a few years, or looking to spend less on a costume, local thrift and consignment stores are a good option. The NAMI Thrift Shop, at 10730 Connecticut Ave., has an abundance of more-recent vintage items from the 1970s through 1990s.
Store manager Rhona Sollod said adult and teenage customers often come in looking for a "vintage-looking" costume. Recently, she's helped compile several 1980s outfits for customers, and still has a lot of teeny and tacky denim skirts to aid the look.
"I sold one of these with a top and a jacket — Tina Turner," Sollod said. "I got a girl ready for an '80s party and got her all dressed up and I said, That's '80s,' and she said Do you know?' and I said Yes, I know, thank you very much!'"
The store, which donates all proceeds to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, also has a wide array of retro trench coats and hats for detectives, and a surprisingly large assortment of wedding gowns for would-be brides of Frankenstein. There is also an eclectic shoe collection, with wooden shoes, cowboy boots and tap-dancing shoes recently spotted.
Sollod said customers can often make a costume that tallies only $15, and with half-price clothing sales for children and adults Thursdays and Fridays respectively, bargains get better.
Another charity thrift shop, the Prevention of Blindness Thrift Store, at 3716 Howard Ave., which raises money for glasses for the poor and other vision-oriented charities, recently had a number of 1960s-style coats and purses on display, as well as a respectable array of clothing in the back room for a patient costume seeker and a large collection of clip on earrings for accessories.
For the kiddies, The Growing Years Consignments, at 10303 Kensington Parkway, and Kensington Caboose, at 10508 Connecticut Ave., offer animal costumes and other ready-mades that have been outgrown by their little spooks.
"The typical ones that are always popular are the princess dresses, but they'll use those for dress-up, too," said Joyce Casso, owner of Kensington Caboose.
Julie DeSantis, who works at Growing Years, agreed that princess dresses are the big seller. For boys, firefighters and cowboys are easy to assemble without ready-made costumes. and girls can easily be a witch or a cat with black clothes already in their closet. Though Halloween is a few weeks out, DeSantis said business is already brisk.
"We sell a lot (of costumes) every day," DeSantis said.