Each year, around Halloween, Angelinos are reminded of how lucky we are to be living in the top entertainment town. LA locals have an edge on fashioning and styling original and realistic looking Halloween costumes. You don’t even have to know Hollywood wardrobe insiders to get the skinny on great clothing, makeup and accessories. Los Angeles is full of places that sell theatrical and often dramatic gear, year-round. When it comes time for Halloween, these and other great multicultural retail spots really come in handy.
Exotic Halloween Costumes: the Ethnic Neighborhood Connection
Children and adults alike love going international for Halloween. It’s great fun to check out some of the native-style costumes inspired by regions from all around the world like: Greece, the Middle East, India, China, Japan, Mexico, and beyond.
If you (or your kid) are planning ethnically inspired costumes, multicultural LA won’t steer you wrong. Consider going straight to the source: the respective ethnic community that inspired the costume. Olvera Street Downtown has some great Mexican attire--from ponchos to sombreros. You’re bound to find an authentic cheongsam dress or two in Chinatown. You might check out some of the shops in Little Tokyo or the Sawtelle Blvd. area of the West Side if your costume is “geisha” or “samurai,” for example. There is a large Persian community around the Westwood vicinity. So, this is a great area for henna tattoos and other exotic accessories.
Also consider going direct to fabric stores within ethnic communities--where you can often purchase rich textured materials that can easily be sewn together into fantastic costumes, or brought to local tailors in those communities for expert assemblage.
Although there aren’t too many shops that specialize exclusively in ‘cosplay’ (a popular Japanese sub-culture stemming from the anime scene), there are some spots around LA that cater to this costume-inspired movement. Go to Giant Robot in W. LA or Anime Jungle in Downtown LA and try connecting with the experts there regarding ‘cosplay’ shopping. You just might find that Lil Bo Peep or Mad Hatter outfit of your dreams.
Halloween Heaven on a Budget: Second-Hand Clothing Boutiques
When I was a pre-teen and teen growing up in LA, I used to go wild at colorful second- hand shops like Aardvark’s Odd Ark on Melrose, Good Will and just about any Salvation Army shop I would come across. There are some great, cheap finds in these hand-me-down boutiques, especially if you (or your child) are going for a retro costume from the ‘20s through to the ‘80s. You never know what you might pick up. And they often have bargain baskets that bring already great prices down even lower.
If you’re planning on being of service this Halloween--and coming dressed as a fancy butler or maid--consider checking out boutiques that specialize in uniforms. There are, of course, many other popular uniforms that make for great Halloween costumes such as: nurse, doctor, security guard, conductor and (a quintessentially LA choice) valet parking attendant.
More excited about being of service to your community or country? Then consider arriving at the Halloween bash dressed as an army or navy officer or marine. This is a no-fuss-no-muss costume choice--particularly for gents. It’s easy enough to head down to your local army surplus store and get all the ammunition you need for a great costume. Americawear on Grand Ave., near W. Jefferson Blvd., for instance, even sells gas masks--if you’re going for an extreme 28 Days Later kind of vibe.
Hollywood Halloween Costumes - Shopping With the Pros
Depending on how elaborate you or your kids want to get with your costumes, going pro is a definite option, since LA caters to professional wardrobe stylists and artists. When I was a little kid I can still remember the first time my mother took me to Western Costume Company, one of the oldest suppliers of costumes to Hollywood productions. As a child, it was as close to a candy store as a clothing supplier could be. It’s now close to a century old, and still impresses with the authenticity of its wares--especially if you’re planning a period costume.
The professional level resources don’t stop there. Look for any of the many retailers that tailor their wares to film and TV people. One of my favorite hair and makeup shops is Image Exclusive. They have a great selection of hair product (including fillers, dyes and color sprays), makeup, false eyelashes and wigs geared towards pro stylists (who receive an industry discount).
The LA Opera has also started throwing overstock sales once a year during the first week of October at their Costume Shop parking lot.
Sexy Adult Halloween: From Naughty Witches to Frisky Fortune Tellers
Since Halloween has become increasingly accepted as an adult holiday as well as a children’s celebration, we’ve seen more and more sexy costumes (mostly from women). Witches, fortune tellers, nurses and lady cops are flashing their saucy looks all over town, it seems. Where do they find their tantalizing threads? Most likely in sex and lingerie shops.
Those sorts of retailers cater to an adult crowd interested in playing roles, so it stands to reason that they have plenty of skimpy costumes to choose from. Sex emporiums like The Pleasure Chest, the Hustler store and Le Sex Shoppe have decent costume (or themed clothing) selections, along with fun accessories like feather boas. If, for example, you’re dressing as Cat Woman this Halloween, those sorts of boutiques might have black catsuits readily available. Similarly, over-the-top lingerie shops like the classic LA mainstay Trashy Lingerie also carry this sort of merchandise.
Halloween Costume Recycling
This is the era of ‘green’ and recycling so why not follow suit with Halloween costumes? You can borrow or swap past Halloween costumes or articles of clothing with friends and family. If you have attended Burning Man, Chinese New Year celebrations, Comic-Con or even (much further afield) Oktoberfest, there are certainly some leftover garment gems within your treasure chest of events past. Consider having a pre-Halloween trunk party at which you swap clothing pieces from old Halloween and events costumes.