Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Costumes On Parade!

As I was contemplating the need of a rentals catalog, I wondered how many costumes are in our rentals department. I chose a random section of a random rack and counted how many hangers I could see within a span of three feet. There were over fifty. And we have six of these two-sided racks that span the length of the building. So how many rentals costumes do we have? Answer: lots. And, like a bizarre game of Pokemon, I gotta catch them all! (Photographically speaking.)

But how does one expeditiously photograph such a large quantity of costumery? By trapping some unsuspecting victims to be your living mannequins! We hosted a costume parade, and some of our Facebook fans excitedly signed up to model. Wanting to do the thing right, we asked Pashaa to come in with his green screen and have some fun. Here are some preliminary outcomes!

 Here is Joyce, modeling a vintage 1920s ensemble consisting of a sage overcoat and cream hat. Doesn't she look glamorous?

 Her daughter Genevieve in a ball gown of the store owner's making. Proof that princesses aren't all fluff puffs and glitter.

Co-worker Wolfie rockin' a vintage traveler look.

 Ashley, posing as the perfect pre-ball Cinderella, taking a moment from her usual chores to enjoy the quiet out-doors.

 Angie, looking Spanish and mysterious in a red Renaissance gown.

 Angie again, looking less mysterious and a little angry in a Glinda-gone-wrong. We try not to take ourselves too seriously here. 

We ended up photographing over 20 costumes in two hours' time, proof that many hands make light work. We'll certainly be doing these costume parades again. A big huge thanks to Pashaa and Marci and their amazing artistic skills, and to our lovely models who made the evening such a blast!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Dos and Don'ts of Dressing Up for Movie Premiers

Summer time is movie time, and this Summer has great promise filled with pirates, Potters, and superheroes! Any self-respecting movie-goer knows that if it's a major movie, you not only go to its midnight premier, but you go in costume for it as well. But in all the enthusiasm of dressing up, there are a few things to remember. Here are the dos and don'ts of wearing costumes to movies.

Do: Find your costume ahead of time. Like, at least a month ahead of time. Thirty days out is when businesses start looking for their costumes, especially if they plan on representing themselves at a popular theater for the midnight premier. So needless to say, because they come in so early (and usually have a little more dough), they tend to snatch up the best costumes while the rest of the community is only vaguely thinking about what they want to wear.

Do: Call up major theaters and ask if they'll be doing any costume promotions for the event, and if they are, ask if you can be part of it. Many theaters rent costumes to spruce up the festivities, but lack an actor to fill them. If you're willing to wander around dressed as the faculty of Hogwarts with a few of your friends, they just might give you free tickets to the show for doing so.

Don't: think high. Remember that these midnight premiers are crowded with hundreds of patrons selling out multiple theaters, and theater seats aren't exactly lounge chairs. You need to take the rest of the movie-goers into consideration and avoid tall hats and wigs, as well as anything wide or super cumbersome.

Don't: say to yourself, "Oh, it's okay, I'll wear those Marie Antoinette style panniers and just take them off right before the movie starts." Trust me, you won't. Same goes with aforementioned tall hats and wigs. Not only will you not want to lose your place in line to put whatever it is in your car, but you'll probably be having too much fun to keep track of time and before you know it the theater is seating and ohmygoodness you forgot to take off those blasted panniers that are so big they'll fill two seats to either side of you.

Do: Be creative. In example, when the seventh Harry Potter movie came out, at the midnight premier I attended there were about fifty Hermiones and two Bellatrixes and that was it. Where were the Prof.McGonagalls? The Madame Trelawneys, the Rita Skeeters, the Fleur De la Cours? All of whom had awesome costumes that would be fun to recreate, but alas, they remained un-thought of. If you want to be unique, just call up your local costume shop and they'll be happy to brainstorm character ideas, then help you figure out how to achieve it.

Don't: forget to shower beforehand. You'll probably have already been up since eight that morning, and you'll still be up at three the next morning when the movie ends, spending much of that time in a hot and sweaty costume. Do us all a favor and shower before you go, start the movie fresh.

Do: Remember to stay comfortable. You'll be in your costume a long time, and nothing will spoil an evening faster than being uncomfortable.

And one final thought from one who manages a costume rental department....

Do: If you rent a costume, remember that you're renting a costume. And wearing it to a theater. A theater which probably has mass amounts of greasy and sticky food that is begging to stain something, anything, and there are people who aren't paying attention to said food. It's perfectly reasonable to rent a costume for a movie theater, just careful. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Renaissance Fair!

Utah held a Renaissance Fair in May and we were lucky to be a part of it. It was quite the event! There were excellent vendors, excellent food (someday I'll get a turkey leg... someday), and entertainment of all sorts.

It was spread out over three weekends, and I'm sad to say that the forecast for every single one of them was thus: Friday:Rain. Saturday: Sun. Sunday: Rain/High Winds. And it wasn't just a light, desert-climate type rain, it was a rain like Utah hasn't seen in decades. It was so bad, the original site for the fair was under eight feet of water, causing them them to relocate. Our tent had a canopy, which combined with the rain created a fun little waterfall feature people had to walk through to get into the main part of the tent. We didn't do a lot of business that day.

The real reason for going was to watch the Knights Of Mayhem, a jousting group that does full contact jousting. This wasn't no Excaliber show where the winner is predetermined, these guys  made real contact.

All of the pictures you see here were taken by Pashaa of Dreamline Photography. He was part of our booth, photographing patrons using green screen technology. It was very cool. National Geographic was there documenting the event, and they noticed the work of Pashaa and his wife Marci and have asked permission to use some of his photos for their feature!

Laura, the owner of Mask Costumes, was there as The Queen, looking lovely in a dress of her making.

Other than the tent collapsing in the middle of the night on all of the sleeping employees on the one night they decided to stay, the fair was quite lovely. To all of you who missed this year's, may we see you shining at next year's event!

Friday, June 3, 2011


We have Viggo Mortensen's costume from the movie Hidalgo! I'm not talking about a replica, I'm talking about the real, genuine, straight-off-his-back costume. Believe me when I say that I don't think they even washed it before sending it to us (that's a grimy show, Hidalgo).

For those who've been in hiding these past few years, Viggo Mortensen is an excellent actor most famously known for being the grungy ranger Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He's continued the showers-are-optional theme with such characters as Everett Hitch in Appaloosa,  Tom Stall in A History of Violence, the Man in The Road (very good acting in that one), and of course, Frank Hopkins of Hidalgo. Hidalgo  tells the story of Mr.Hopkins's entry into an Arabian race with his mustang  Hidalgo, in the year 1890.  It's a fun summer flick, for those wanting a bit of adventure.

The costumes were won in an online auction, and this is the tag it came with. I'm assuming it means scenes 32-34 in chapter four, though I'm not sure how you'd figure out what the chapters are. I know DVDs have chapters, but is that what they mean?

The pants seem to be made out of a really lightweight canvas, and were filthy! Having seen the movie, it's fun knowing that all of the dirt and discoloration came from being worn while riding a horse out in the middle of nowhere. The metal buttons have a very clear, pleasing "ping" to them when struck.
The pants  made me realize that Mr.Mortensen is just your average guy: not too tall, not too short, neither heavy nor skinny. 

The back of his pants had a kind of belt addition. I love it when movies remember little details like that. You'd probably only notice it if you knew what you were looking for, but it still adds that extra something. As an actor, it's the small details that help you get into character.

I've known these costumes were coming, and though part of me thought it was cool to have costumes straight from a movie, I wasn't too fussed about it. But when I finally saw them, I can't deny I got a little excited. I respect Viggo Mortensen as an actor, and from what I've seen and read of him as a person, he seems like a great guy. Hidalgo may not have been Oscar caliber, but it was a big film when it came out, pulling in $67 million at the box office (in comparison, the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie has only made $40 million so far).   

It's fun to think that if Viggo came into this little shop right now, he could glance over my shoulder and say something like, "Hey, I wore that! Ha, the pants even have the black on the legs from when Bob put too much oil on my saddle, that crazy guy."
There's a piece of Hollywood hanging behind me. The industry may have its flaws, but there's no denying that movies play a huge part in American life. It's strange to think that with how deeply the movie/TV industry infiltrates our days, we are all very much on the outside looking in. We feel a part of it because like a beloved pet it's always around, but most of us have no true involvement beyond feeding it our hard-earned money via a Saturday night at the movies, a cable bill, or maybe by buying a licensed Halloween costume. But right here, in a little costume shop in Salt Lake City, is an itty bitty cog in that which makes Hollywood. A famous man in a famous movie wore the bandanna sitting on my desk. Here hangs something in real life that literally millions of people from all over the world have seen on film. 
And that's pretty cool. 


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The 1920s, 1930s,Flappers and Gangsters Oh My!

What a tricky couple of decades! Like Medieval vs Renaissance, the '20s to '30s is another time of fashion that gets confusing. It doesn't help when people throw in specifics like that they're having a Great Gatsby party (what's that all about?).

To fully appreciate the whats and whys of the twenties, you have to understand where it came from. Just eight years prior was the sinking of the Titanic. Tragic event, but an easy one for remembering what the 1910s gave us.

Women were still wearing corsets, long skirts, and big hats to compliment their long hair.

James Cameron's movie "Titanic" is a great resource for fashion of the era. Men were pretty straight forward with their fashion: three piece suits that meant business.  Not unlike modern suits, though with a different collar.

Then World War I came and went and things began to shift. After the war, women started entering the workforce in earnest and the economy was feeling like gangbusters. Aside from the whole prohibition of alcohol thing, people were really enjoying life. Technology was booming, and with the modernizing of everyday things came the overhaul of traditions.

Whereas the silhouette of the '10s was an S curve (busty,, the silhouette of the '20s was a completely opposite boyish look.

The waist was dropped, the hemline raised, the hairline raised, the chest and hips flattened, and the hats small. Coincidentally, it wasn't until around this time that women started shaving their legs. The skirts were often pleated or full, to allow greater movement for the dances of the day (like the Charleston).

Enter The Flapper. Made popular by the 1920 film of the same name, the term embodies a new and radical way of living. Flappers were rebellion personified. When most people think of a Flapper, they think of this dress here:

Though this does pass for a modern take on the Flappers of that decade, dresses like this were not the only thing they wore. Expand your horizons; keep in mind the shorter (sometimes asymmetrical) hems and boyish shape and still be a Flapper without looking like everyone else.

Clothing for men became more relaxed, though honestly not a lot changed.

Many people think that the dress for men of the '20s was a pinstriped zoot suit, or gangster suit, like this one:

When really that kind of exaggerated fashion didn't come about until the late 1930s, early '40s. A woman wearing a flapper dress together with a man wearing a zoot suit would have been as awkward as a man wearing MC Hammer pants to the prom in '95.

Which brings me to the 1930s! Think shoulder pads, lovely, lovely shoulder pads. Hemlines started going back down while waists went back up. Hair was eventually grown longer again.

Suits for men became baggier, then eventually the most daring wore the zoot suit. Unlike the '20s which was prospering because of the war, the '30s were being dragged down by the great depression. Though clothing was still beautiful, it seems (to me) to have a more somber attitude. Here is a picture taken from the early 1930s of my very own grandparents. 

My favorite part is her bangs.

The next time you're invited to a '30s party, chances are they mean '20s. And you can slyly smile to yourself for knowing the difference.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Measuring Up

The United States has a lot of different ways to determine what size a person is.  You have Small, Medium, Large and so on, or you have size 6, 8, or 10 which can be the same as a 5,7,or 9 depending on the store.  Not to mention petite vs plus size, and don't get me started on American size charts vs European.  The weird part is that a person is only ever one size at a time; you are what you are, and for the most part your mass doesn't change as you cross the street from one store to another.  Yet mysteriously that street crossing can sometimes transform you from an eight to a sixteen.  Women bear the bulk of the sizing burden, as it seems manufacturers (who are surely all men) made it easy for their own sex.  What's your waist measurement?  That's your pant size, if you're a man.  But even then men don't quite understand what their waist is versus their hips.

My lovely husband George shall demonstrate.

don't ask questions

Women have a strange aversion to knowing what their measurements are, they tend to prefer generic sizes instead.  Women, empower yourselves!  Knowing what that measuring tape says can be a tool for good!  If you buy yourself an inexpensive measuring tape and keep it in your purse, suddenly guessing if something will fit you is...well..less of a guess.  Is there a blouse you like but don't have time to try it on?  If you know your bust measurement is 40", measure the blouse on the hanger at the bust from side to side, pulling so it's taught.  Take that measurement and double it, and that's its size all the way around.  Did it measure 20" from side to side?  Than your 40" bust should fit.  When inquiring over the phone if a store has a certain size, give the clerk your waist measurement instead of a number, and she'll be able to give you a more accurate answer.  Shopping for a child?  How often have you had to tell a clerk, "Well, she's twelve, but she's tall for her age so a child's size twelve might be too short, so she might be more like a small adult, but then it might be too big so maybe she's a size 1?"  If you have one little measurement, it's a whole world easier.  

Little tricks like that only work if you've measured yourself properly. You may consider your waist to be the area a couple of inches below your belly button, but makers of clothing consider the waist to be the point at which your body creases when you bend to the side, which is usually above your belly button.  The chart below is typical of what seamstresses use when building clothing.  Note on the figure whose back is facing us where they mark the waist to be.  The slight V just below the number five is where most people think their waist is.  


   If you shop online it's vital to know what your measurements are, as most stores have a sizing chart like this one from .  You'll notice an interesting thing as you observe the size charts of different shops: The more upscale the store, the larger your generic size will usually be.  That's because places like Walmart like to do what's called vanity sizing.  As time has passed people have tended to get bigger, but we still want to feel like we're small.  So a size ten today is not the size ten of yesteryear.

In example, based on Walmart's website, a woman with a 32 1/2" bust would be a size 2.

Note what size a woman is with an even smaller bustline, based off of this old 1940s dress pattern.

Of course dress patterns are a little differently sized than store bought clothing, but the point still stands.

I suggest printing off one of the charts above and taking  a moment to figure out what your measurements really are. Using the chart as a guide to where your measuring tape should go for each body part you're measuring, be sure the tape wraps around you snugly but not too tight (or too loose), and is parallel to the ground. Wear clothing that isn't baggy. For women, be aware that your bust measurements can change depending on the bra you're wearing, so if you're measuring yourself to find a formal dress, wear the bra you'd wear with the dress. If you're concerned you're just not measuring yourself correctly, drop by your local costume shop or tailor and someone will gladly help you out.  Don't be afraid of what the numbers might show you.  Knowing your actual size, knowing your true measurements, will not only save you some unnecessary frustration but may also help you find clothes that actually fit.  And as they say, "Knowing is half the battle."  


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

THE PEOPLE WE MEET - Pants Free Zone?

One afternoon a man came upstairs to the rentals department, where he asked me if we had any pinstripe gangster suits. We have a plethora of them, so I started showing him the various colors and types of suits.  He went into the dressing rooms to try one and came out with it on.  I started pulling fedoras, sidearms, all sorts of things for him to try, both of us having a good time.  He ended up loving the whole ensemble.

"I'll take it!" he said, so I sat down at my stool behind my computer and opened the program to begin the transaction.  I looked up to ask him a question, and he'd taken off his pants!  He was standing there for all the world to see!  I didn't know what to do.  What do you say? "Excuse me sir, your pants have fallen off,"?  "I'm sorry, this is not a pants-free zone."?  My mind was racing, trying to think of what I should do without embarrassing him or me.  I know that sometimes when someone does something embarrassing, you should do it too to make them feel less alone, but somehow I figured taking my own pants off wasn't the answer.  Would a shoe count?  I didn't know! So I just stared at his face.  O_O  He was completely nonplussed.  I was trying not to smile from embarrassment and was failing miserably, so while he was cooly finishing the transaction, I had this derpy half-smile-half-not expression on my very red face.  Somehow I got through all of my questions, we completed the transaction, he changed back into his clothes and thanked me on the way out.

I continued to sit there in shock.

Yep, we run into some interesting people here.