Western Costume – A Hollywood Halloween
Oct. 3, 2013
By Cassy Salyer
It’s that time of year again and many people have begun to eagerly plan their Halloween costumes, an annual activity that in some circles has become a highly competitive (if not incredibly involved) process. As always, much of the creative inspiration for costumes comes directly from pop culture, whether from the most talked-about television shows and films of the year, or from iconic moments of decades past.
One of the most storied locations in Los Angeles to find one-of-a-kind, authentic costumes that have actually been worn in movies and on television is Western Costume, a 101-year-old costume warehouse located in North Hollywood. As one of the largest costume houses in the world, Western has outfitted some of the most well-known characters in history, including those from films such as “Gone with the Wind,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Titanic,” “Gladiator,” “Robin Hood,” “The Artist” and many more.
According to Western Costume President Eddie Marks, Western has been renting its costumes to the public for more than 40 years. Each year, beginning in September, a special four-person team curates a collection of costumes that will be available for renting or purchasing in the weeks preceding Halloween. The inventory is often selected based on current TV shows and films, as well as historical trends in popular Halloween costumes.
The Halloween store is set up behind the 120,000 square foot warehouse in a large white tent and adjacent room, both of which are decorated for the occasion. This helps to keep crowds in search of tricks and treats separate from the costume designers and costumers working inside.
Approximately 10 to 15 percent of Western’s total inventory is available to rent, with a much smaller percentage available for sale. None of the authentic costumes from film and television are for sale to the public. The items that are for sale are typically more generic costumes that are purchased by Western at Halloween costume expos. One such costume that will likely be extremely popular this year is the yellow hazmat suit from “Breaking Bad,” which is available for $45. The items that are available for purchase, which includes makeup and other accessories, are all located near the front entrance, and the remainder of the space is filled with famed rentals ranging from $45 to $325.
Marks says that period costumes are incredibly popular every Halloween, citing favorites including the ornate Southern ball gowns with giant hoop skirts from “Gone with the Wind” and flapper costumes and pinstripe gangster suits from “The Great Gatsby,” which were especially popular last year as a result of the “Gatsby” remake. TV shows such as “Boardwalk Empire” and “Mad Men” are also favorites among the gentlemen. Marks says that it’s becoming more common for entire Halloween parties to be centrally themed around period films and television shows.
Another popular style that has emerged in recent years is Steampunk, a quasi-historical look mixed with futuristic elements and industrial ornamentation. Western has an impressive collection of Steampunk – which has been described as “the intersection of technology and romance” – that has been seen in films such as “The Prestige,” “Hugo,” “The Golden Compass,” “Hellboy” and others.
Guests can peruse rack after rack of unique costumes, all separated into specific categories and labeled according to what types of costumes the piece suits best. For example, a french coat from the 1700s can be worn as the anchor of a French Royal Court costume, or alternately for a pirate costume. Other popular collections of costumes include Roman Centurions and Julius Caesar, the Vikings costumes from the Capital One commercials, Indian headdresses of all shapes and sizes, gold Cleopatra headpieces, furry character walkabouts and much, much more. Each piece has its own unique history as well, and is labeled with information regarding where – and on whom – the costume has appeared on screen.
According to Marks, the overall selection includes “a little bit of everything” and there is something for everyone. Of course, the earlier one goes, the more options they will have, as costumes can be rented for the entire month of October.
“It gets pretty crowded during lunch time,” says Marks. “We will get really busy the closer we get to Halloween and especially from the 21st to the 25th because Halloween is on a Thursday this year, and most of the parties will be the weekend before. Our best years are when Halloween is on Saturday or Sunday.”
With thousands of pieces from which to choose, if you don’t see exactly what you are looking for, several staff members (all of which are dressed and made up in exquisite costumes themselves) are available to help identify and locate the various elements needed to complete a character or look.