Halloween superstores abound, filling vacant, oversized spaces in strip malls across the city. And you know what? They're all filled with the same polyester costumes. They're itchy, scratchy, commonplace and, most heinous of all—boring.
Instead of going anywhere where “Halloween” is part of the name, think broader. First stop: an actual costume store. Buffalo Breath (2050 Hancock St. in Middletown, 619-297-1175) has been a fixture in San Diego for more than 35 years. October's clearly its busiest month, but beyond that, they supply theatrical costumes for stage shows and conventions, so you can be confident there are things here never seen at your neighborhood block party. They do rentals as well as sales. But don't just come here for the full regalia. This is the best place in the city for giant claws, hooks and bloody hands— there's a whole case of 'em—as well as a floor-to-ceiling case of fake facial hair, a wall of wigs and another wall of wings, tights of every color and bling—bad, bad bling.
In early October, they drag out their finest (by my standards anyway)—their used costumes. A couple weeks ago, I found a three-piece red-velvet suit with cream lace accents for $9.99 (What to be? Junior Santa? Little Loud Fauntleroy? A mon petite clown?) and a green satin capelet for $4.99 that I bought just because. The prices are cheap, the garments inspirational. Peruse the rack and it will lead you to your Hallows Eve fate.
If you're more free-will than John Locke, look no further than soft-porn advocates American Apparel (locations in Hillcrest, Pacific Beach, Fashion Valley, Gaslamp and La Jolla). Its newly expanded line has all the makings for literally thousands of costumes that range from adorable to out-and-out nasty. The math is almost elementary: gingham mini skirt + gingham button-up + striped tights = Alice (or Dorothy); leggings + bodysuit + circle cape = any superhero you can dream up; white Le Sac dress + gold braided belts = Grecian goddess; anything hot pink and tight = Dancing with the Stars reject; nude bodysuit + cut-off leg of black tights = one-legged man; black leotard + black leggings + some balloons = balloon artiste.
Of course, the easiest costume here would be to go as a trashy American Apparel model. But it doesn't take much effort or money to transform your self into a Whip It roller girl, a ninja, ballerina or Bjorn Borg. With leggings and tights and tanks and tees and jumpers and skirts and track pants and thigh-highs in every color, the possibilities are endless.
There is one place with “Halloween” in the name that's worth a look. It's called simply Halloween Costumes, and it's located on Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach. It appears it's been set up overnight and might possibly be gone at any moment, but who knows. The costumes are of the itchy / scratchy variety, but there's a twist that makes this place worth seeking out: The costumes were all close-outs from a bygone era. Most of the goods here are from at least 20 years ago, some even older. And they weren't first-run costumes even when they came out—think Hair Bears and Mighty Orphan Power Rangers. There are also a number of costumes from other countries. Wigs, the style Kate Gosselin has made famous, are even more awesome when done up in bright yellow and modeled by a heavily made-up Yugoslavian woman. They've got kids' costumes, adult stuff and loads of extras like hair dye, wings and John Oates mustaches. You may not be terribly comfortable this 31st, but it's a small price to pay for looking so—bitchin'.
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