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.            

Monday, April 11, 2011

Five Tips for Costume Parties

I had a conversation the other day with a customer who wanted some tips on throwing a costumed party, as she had never hosted one herself.  Dot (my coworker) and I immediately set into different ideas for themes and why they would work, and it occurred to me that there really are some good costume party themes and some that are... less appreciated by the guests.  Believe me, I know, for guests are much more open with their costumer than the host.

1. Good ideas are ones that can work on a variety of levels and complexity.  Hollywood Movie Stars is an easy one, as you can twist any costume to fit the theme.  That way your guest can find a costume they like, and with a little ingenuity we'll find a famous actor to suit it.  Say your bff Betty found a renaissance gown she loved.  Great! If she's blonde, she's Kate Blanchette as Queen Elizabeth, or Gweneth Paltrow from Shakespeare In Love.  If she's brunette, she's Sigourney Weaver from 1492, Judy Dench from Shakespeare In Love, or Rachel Weisz from The Fountain. Does Bob hate dressing up?  Jeans, a white T-shirt, and slicked back hair and he's John Travolta from Grease.  How about a slightly overweight dark haired friend who hates costumes because she (mistakenly) feels like there aren't any costumes out there for her?  She can wear what she usually wears from day to day, bring along a sledge hammer, and she's Kathy Bates from Misery.  The possibilities are endless, and it accommodates wall flowers and limelight lovers, penny pinchers and spendthrifts, creative types and those of us who are forever chained, Prometheus-like, to creativity's writer's block.  Another accommodating theme is Decades, where guests can wear anything between 1910 and 1980.  That theme is particularly fun if you have guests of highly varying ages, as you can request they dress from the decade they were born in. Masquerade Ball is also versatile, as it allows guests to go all out (think Marie Antoinette style gowns) or minimalist (simple black dress with a cool mask).   

2. Keep in mind how much skin your friends like to show.  In example, a 1920s party is always fun, but flapper dresses (what most people envision for that era) are usually sleeveless and above-the-knee short, making it difficult for women who desire a little more modesty.  It's not impossible to find dresses with more coverage in that time period, it just requires a touch more work and creativity.  Playboy Bunny is not a good theme for the modest crowd.

3. I know we've all at some point gone to a Halloween party dressed in a head to toe replica gown of Queen Elizabeth the first, only to find the other guests didn't bother to dress up at all, am I right?  Help your guests avoid that awkward misstep by letting them know how all-out you're planning the event to be.  You can tell them in person, include a dress standard in the invitation, or make an arrangement with your local costume shop.  Here at Mask Costumes, if a host lets us know they're throwing a large costumed party, we'll sometimes bring in more of that type of costume, give discounts to the party goers, and we can tell people how extravagant or simple people are going.  Encourage them to dress up by having a costume contest with a worthy prize, or by decorating the venue to the hilt in the theme.  Set up a photo op spot where guests can take their picture in costume.  Include costume suggestions (with pictures) as well as local costume shops' addresses with the invitations.  And always, themed music is a necessity for getting people in the spirit.  If you can't think of what music suits a Vikings party, find a movie that feature vikings and go from there. 

4. If you want to host a small crowd, How To Host A Murder mystery games are a great way to go.  They're fun, funny, they guide you through the process step by step, and the invitations include costume suggestions.

5. In the end, the most important thing to keep in mind is the comfort of your guests.  If you run in an economically challenged crowd, don't require them to shell out a lot of dough on an expensive costume.  If your friends tend to be shy, Pimps and Hos is not a theme for you. Surprises are fun, but erring on giving guests too much information vs too little is the better way to go.

Here are some more theme suggestions, and may the Hosting Force be with you!
  • Hollywood
  • Decades
  • Famous Musicians (anywhere from country, Mozart, to 80s hair bands)
  • Carnival (ring master, bearded lady, lion tamer, tightrope walker, patron, the lion itself, magician, etc)
  • Famous Book Characters
(and a few more themes that are fun though not as versatile)
  • Vikings
  • Comic Book Characters
  • Video Game Charactres
  • Rock and Roll
  • Famous Couples (Sonny and Cher, Ketchup and Mustard, etc)
  • Zombies
  • Pirates
  • Renaissance
  • Medieval
  • Brand Mascots (mermaid of Chicken of the Sea, Land O'Lakes Indian Princess, Mr.Peanut, etc)
  • Cartoons
  • Anime
  • Individual Decades
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Disney
  • Fairytale (Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Three Blind Mince)
  • Greek or Roman
  • Black and White (where everyone wears only black or white, or any monochromatic scheme makes for dramatic results
  • Animals
  • Hats  
  • Heroes and Villains              

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Rogue Makeup Artists

    There are perks to being a makeup artist, like the chance to work with models.

    Naked models.
    Yes folks, this woman is wearing naught but polyester blend skivvies, everything else is paint.  I came across this photo through a friend, who was eager to let me in on a secret: the model, makeup artists, and the photographer are all local Salt Lake City-ites.  I knew Utah's citizens were talented, but I had no idea these kind of jaw dropping shenanigans were going on, and it's my goal to let the rest of the world in on the secret my friend already knew: Utah has some brilliant artists!

    Let's give credit where credit is due: the beautiful model portraying X-Men's Rogue is Leigh Zimmerman,
    the photographer and editor is Chelsea Dawn with Urbanite Imagery, and the makeup was done by Shanna Painter with the man behind the project, Brett Hamilton.

    I had a little Q & A with Brett, who was eager to answer my questions.

    "What was the inspiration behind this project?"
                "Thanks so much for your interest in this series and I say series because this is going to go until there is no more response. I've wanted to do a hero/villain shoot for a long time and I finally had a friend push me to get it going. I plan on doing at least twelve, if not more.  I'm sure you recognize that Rogue is not my idea or design and is an X-men character owned my Marvel Comics, I just wanted to show my idea of what the real life characters would look like, and do a photo shoot to add to peoples portfolio and just have fun."

    "How long did this take?" 
                 "The over all make up took approx 5 hours with about 2 weeks of prep before the shoot."

    "What tools did you use?" 
                 "We used Kryolan Aqua Color Cakes, Mehron Paradise Cakes and Mixing Liquid, Badger Airbrush paints, Ben Nye Magicolor Liquids and Ben Nye Liquid Hair Paint. Also used Ben Nye Final seal to set the product. Stencils were used for the detail, Smashbox, Cinema secrets and Ben Nye Paint Brushes, Paasche Airbrush's and Iwata Airbrush's and Sea Sponge."

    "I'm going to ask it, because I know people are wondering: How did you conceal her nipples?"
                   "Spicy Spot Silicone Nipple Covers (AKA Pasties)."

    Spicy Spot pasties.... Spicy Spot.....silicone..... anyway..........

    "What is the hardest and easiest part of doing a project like this?"
                   "The hardest part about the project is getting the other people involved to understand the characters, the way to get what I was looking for and finding the right model for each character. Easiest is when a model just pops out of nowhere and screams what character she is, as in Rogue, Leigh was perfect."

    "What about yourself?  What is your makeup background?"
                    "I started out doing special effects makeup at Rocky Point Haunted House, and now have a background in horror, beauty / fashion, special effects and body painting. I've worked on short films and also helped on set as an Assistant to the Special Effect Makeup Artist on the movie Frozen. I've body painted a lot, started about six years ago painting at private parties and helping clubs with promotions. In 2009 and 2010 I won the Chic Elite Body Art Showcase and plan to enter again this year."

    "What is something you want people to know, something you want to say, but are rarely asked?"
                    "Body painting is changing with the times and I'm trying to help push the changes and make it an acceptable form of art. I do not require or request a model to be nude and will work with what ever I can to make the model comfortable."
     "What is your favorite and least favorite part of something like this?"
                     "I love to be able take someone and turn them into something or someone else and I don't think that when you truly love what you do you can find something that you don't like about it."

    Very sage.

    As Brett continues his series, I'll continue to post about his fantastic projects.  It just goes to show that you never know the talent that's in your own backyard.  Thank you Brett, and we're all looking forward to your future endeavors!

    Monday, March 28, 2011

    The Medieval Rennaissance

    My days in rentals frequently go like this:
    Me: "Hi, how may I help you?"
    Customer: "Fine, how are you?"
    Me:......."I'm well, thank you.  How are you?"
    Customer: "I need something Medieval."
    Me: "That's great, we have lots of Medieval costumes!  What is your project?"
    Customer: "Oh, I'm in a play, that's why I need a Renaissance costume."
    Me: "Wait, so you need a Renaissance costume?"
    Customer: "Yeah."
    Me: "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you said Medieval."
    Customer: "I did, I need a Medieval Renaissance costume." 

    That tricky Medieval Renaissance, it gets us all at some point in our lives.  Like using apostrophes in non-possessive plurals, the terms medieval and renaissance are frequently erroneously used interchangeably to describe the centuries in Europe somewhere around 1100 AD and 1600 AD (sweet! That sentence sounded smart).  I am here to tell you my friends, Romans, and countrymen, that the years considered Medieval and the years considered Renaissance are not the same, and it's important to know the difference.  Why, you ask?  For similar reasons it's important to recognize the difference between the American Revolutionary War and World War Two.  Or to just sound smart at parties.

    Let me paint you a picture of life in Medieval times.... the year is 1100 AD in a place someday known as Europe.  Your neighbor, Rome, is just getting over a whole slew of problems and has basically left you to your own devices.  You're still trying to figure out why this guy called the Pope thinks he's the king, the Islamic community is telling you that IV is really 4 (whatever that means, since you probably can't read), while you're still trying to grasp the concept of this crazy thing called "the button".  You can build some pretty cool cathedrals, though.  And you're excited to join your friends on a little trip they've dubbed The Crusades.

    It was a very dark age.  Things were not very technologically advanced.  Clothing wasn't complicated, so when trying to determine if a costume piece is medieval or renaissance, ask yourself if it looks hard to make.
    Look for tunics and simple silhouettes, as well as cyclas (basically a rectangle with a hole in the middle for the head, worn down the back and chest).
    Women wore full length, loosely fitting dresses with tight wrist length sleeves as well as the cyclas.  Eventually flared sleeves were added to the tight sleeves.

    For good medieval clothing movie references, watch "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves", and "Kingdom of Heaven". I make no promises over how good the movies themselves are, just the costumes.

    Now for Renaissance!  Its picture is much rosier.  Renaissance roughly means "born again", and is sometimes referred to as the age of enlightenment.  The year is closer to 1500 AD, and thanks to the Italians, Europe has grown an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.  They've just survived the plague and are feeling pretty good about life.  Nearly every aspect of life is flourishing from this fresh approach to study; philosophy, science, politics, literature, religion, and especially art are advancing, and fast.  Famous renaissance artists include Michelangelo (the statue of David and the Sistine Chapel), Da Vinci (the Mona Lisa), and the Bard himself, Shakespeare.  Queen Elizabeth the first occupied the throne, and life was a peach.  

    Renaissance clothing is all about extravagance.  Corsets for women came into vogue, combined with hoop skirts giving the silhouette a very exaggerated look. 

    Men wore linen shirts under doublets (a kind of fitted jacket), with a jerkin over that (another fitted jacket but without sleeves).  Codpieces made their appearance (if you don't know what that is, I'm not going to tell you), and hose for the legs.  Yes men, you were the first to wear pantyhose. 
    In the picture above, Geoffrey Rush is wearing a doublet (the long dark sleeves) and a jerkin (the matching bodice piece), with short puffy pants and hose.  This comes from the best movie I can recommend for appreciating Renaissance clothing, which is "Shakespeare In Love".

    Here's a run down of the basic differences between Medieval and Renaissance.   
    Medieval: Dark Ages.
    Renaissance: Age of Enlightenment.   
    Medieval: Slim silhouettes.   
    Renaissance: Exaggerated silhouettes.
    Medieval: Tunics.  Lots of 'em.   
    Renaissance: Very structured doublets, jerkins, and puffy pants for men; corsets and hoop skirts for women.   
    Medieval: Robin Hood and King Arthur.  
      Renaissance: Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth.
    These two time periods really are tricky to differentiate when faced with costume upon costume, though it is important to know the difference.  This only skims the surface of these two very different times, but hopefully this gives you some kind of guidance the next time you're in search of a costume.  Or need to sound impressive at parties.



    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    The Wonderful World of Mehron

                  We sell many brands of theatrical makeup, but the main three are Ben Nye, Wolf, and Mehron.  Most people are familiar with Ben Nye (not the Science guy, that's Bill Nye), as it seems to have been around for forever and is a very good product.  Wolf is the newbie to the makeup circuit and is proving itself very nicely.  Mehron is the surprise: it's been around for eighty years (vs Ben Nye's forty), performs excellently, and in some cases surpasses its younger peers (like in spirit gum).  We just got a lovely order of Mehron in and wanted to take a moment to showcase some of it.  Such as....

               Makeup brushes.  It's amazing how much your makeup brush will make or break your project.  Case in point: a woman came into the store one day, almost in tears.  Her son was in a production of Oliver at his school, and the director was relying on students' mothers to be volunteer makeup artists.  Specifically, these women (who had very, very limited theatrical makeup skills) were asked to paint 80 kids in old age makeup in a very short span of time.  Anyone who's done old age knows it ain't easy.  The women had a practice session the night before, and this particular mother was mocked for her terrible skills.  Not wanting to be embarrassed again, she came to us for help.  After talking with her, demonstrating a few techniques, and even letting her practice on me, we discovered the she didn't lack the talent or understanding, she lacked decent brushes.  We set her up with the brushes she needed, and she left feeling one hundred times better.

              We've also brought in these cool little palettes with multiple colors, called the Prisma BlendSet.     
    These little gems are great for face-painting children, as not only do you have a lot of colors at your disposal without taking up a lot of space, you can also drag your makeup brush across the palette then directly across the face to create an instant rainbow.

    And of course, not to be forgotten are the airbrush paints.
    Utah Makeup Artists, rejoice!  There is finally a good resource for your airbrush paints!

                   There are many other things from Mehron we've brought in, like eyelashes and other fun tools and paints.  If you want to learn more about the company, check out their website at , especially to look at the beautiful and fantastic makeup ideas they've posted.  Or drop by the store where we'll talk shop and show you a sample or two.   

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Cream makeup vs Cake

    To use cake makeup, or use cream makeup, that is the question.  Whether 'tis nobler on the face to use one over the other must give us pause.   Before I get into the pros and cons of each, let me explain what they are in the first place, and why you need either at all.

    From doing a play to dressing up for Halloween, street makeup (such as Cover Girl) will usually only take you so far and stay on your face for so long.  Stage makeup catches light better than street makeup, covers better, lasts longer, usually retains better pigment, and is often easier to work with for finer detail.  Popular manufacturers of stage makeup are Ben Nye, Mehron, and Wolf, all three good for different reasons.  Within those brands are offered either cake makeups or cream.

    Cake (the larger foundation in the photo above) is a dry sort of compressed powder that is activated by wetting your sponge or your brush for application.  You can use water or, if you need the makeup to be water proof, liquiset.  When water-based it is easy to remove and is light on the skin, making it good for those with very sensitive skin (and ideal for things like face painting children).

    Cream makeup (the smaller foundation in the photo) is oil based and applied with a dry sponge or brush.  Because it doesn't dry like the cake makeup, it requires powder to be sealed, or a spray of liquiset.  It lasts longer than the cake applied with water, covers latex appliances better (such as a witch's nose), and is generally better at reflecting light.

    Because all of the lovely ladies who work at this store have experience in stage makeup, I asked everyone which they preferred, hoping I could declare a clear winner between cake or cream.  It didn't help me.

    In Cake's corner we have Dot, who likes it because it's easy to fix or remove when she makes a mistake.  Wolfie likes how light it feels when it's on.  Ash praises its easy application, clean look, and longevity.  Jez prefers cake for full body coverage.

    In Cream's corner we have Laura who loves its longevity and its ability to blend.  She dislikes cake for how easily it sweats off.  Jez prefers cream for details, latex coverage, and to both hide and create tattoos.  

    I too am in Cream's corner and here's why:  To achieve consistency with cake, you must dampen your sponge or brush with the same amount of water every time.  I lack that ability, which results in one swipe being too dry and faint, while the next swipe is too wet and streaky and then it dries before I can fix it so I end up having to take it off and try again.  I also prefer creams because I frequently use my fingers to manipulate the makeup, which is harder to do with cake.  Creams also make it easier to mix your own colors on a palette , they run faster, jump higher, resolve the national budget crisis, and I digress.

    Ultimately, both have their place and there's no rule saying you can't use both at the same time for different things.  The rule of all art is to experiment, play around with both until you discover which works best in what ways for what you need to do.               


    Thursday, March 3, 2011


             Welcome to Mask Costumes! We're a full service little costume shop in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I'm the costume rentals manager, and after spending an afternoon in a seat belt crash-test simulator dressed as the princess Belle and arguing with Cinderella about how the incident was her fault and that she'd better have insurance, I realized something:

    Thanks to the costume shop, I (and my coworkers) get to experience a lot of the more unique things in life.

          In what other occupations can you so readily end up on a reality TV show pilot without even auditioning, or find yourself discussing with Disney what costumes will work for their project.                                                                                  *coughcoughHighSchoolMusicalcough*

    A moment from the TLC show "Outrageous Kid Parties", featuring our costumes.  Photo thanks to The Castle in Layton, Ut.

             There is only a handful of us employees at the store, but we have stories that are begging to be told and an abundance of knowledge (both legitimate and random) of the costume/makeup/wig/theatrical world to share.  And we *love* sharing what we've learned.  Over this blog I hope to not only impart some anecdotal incidents but also give tips and answer questions (please send me questions).  It can be a scary thing, finding the costumes you need for that work presentation, or figuring out how to apply old age makeup to 170 elementary school kids without having any kind of makeup background.  Our experience is your easy button.  And hopefully, along the road of this mysterious world of "blog", we'll help you to not only feel comfortable in the world of costuming, but a welcome part of is as well.