“If it’s sexy, we got it.” Amber Marshall is the retail manager of one of the largest and most popular costume stores in Colorado. Voters put Disguises at the top of this year’s Denver A-List ranking. It provides 18,000 square feet of theatrical, every day, and especially, Halloween costumes.
With so many choices, how can you tell what’s hot and what’s not? “You can tell if they have a sexy version. [Companies] won’t bother to make a sexy version if it’s not popular,” said Marshall. She’s right. Everything from Fred Flintstone to Freddy Krueger come with seductive versions. And that’s just the beginning.
Walking into the purple and green Lakewood building is an attack on all the senses. Customers are greeted by a profusion of colors – there are feathers, glitter, satin, lace, fur, and armor. Clothes spill from the racks. Makeup and wigs are piled high. The showroom is one big maze, from the roped-off rental area to et cetera, a nook with all the extra stuff like Victorian Steampunk and Jason mini-dress sweaters. The walls, the ceilings, even the floors are dripping with disguise.
“We give directions based on the graphics [painted] on the floor, so if you want to go to et cetera we tell you to follow the green dots, want to go the costume room we tell you to follow the pink arrows, stars go to makeup and wigs, the yellow brick road is where the [purchasing] line is,” said Marshall.
“Denver’s huge for costuming. There’s always something,” she said. This month alone there are pirate festivals, a vampire ball, two zombie crawls, a witch’s ball, a pagan pride celebration, and of course, Halloween. Disguises sells and rents costumes. “We carry everything from the stuff you can buy at Walmart to the stuff professionals use,” said Marshall.
Marshall is like a kid in a candy store, tripping over her words as she rushes to show the massive collection. Amid the chaos she stops short. “Isn’t this beautiful,” she asked with a quiet reverence as she runs her hand over a studded, vintage Elvis pantsuit. This is Marshall’s domain. It’s clearly more than a job for her. She is gearing up for the store’s high, holy day. “We mark everything by Halloween,” she declared. “I may not know how many years our employees have worked here, but I know how many Halloweens.”
Long embraced by Colorado’s LGBTQ community, there is an entire Pride section with everything from sparkling rainbow masks to a head-to-toe costume of the rainbow flag. “We have shoes up to size 16, so the guys can come in and get their drag on,” said Shift Supervisor Carmen Consalvo.
Her face lights up as she animatedly waves her hands, tosses her spiked hair, and talks about her customers. “I’ve had people come in and they’ll say ‘you’re probably gonna think this is a funny question.’ Nope, I won’t. I’ve heard everything,” declared Consalvo. “One lady called the other day and asked if we sell butt cracks. Butt cracks! Just the crack! I told her we do not sell butt cracks, but we do sell whole butts, boobs, and bellies – so you can get it all.”
Tess Heinonen is a bit more reserved. The sales associate quietly waits on customers before coming over to discuss Halloween. She catalogues all the costumes. Thousands and thousands of them. So many, most are bought or rented after pulling them up on a computer where customers can see the warehouse costumes that don’t fit in the store. There is a lot to choose from, and some of the most popular costumes can come as a surprise, even to her.
“We have a lot of people asking for onesies this year,” said Heinonen, “Onesies are very popular.” Yes. She is talking about the full bodysuits babies wear – only decorated like skeletons, superheroes, even bananas. She said people are having onesies theme parties, and it’s a fun costume for families to dress up in together.
Classics like Disney characters, witches, clowns, and vampires are always popular. But, you never know which character is going to make a comeback. “Red Riding Hood was one of our best sellers last year,” she said. Yet, there were no new Little Red Riding Hood movies, TV shows, or books. It was an organic, customer-oriented drive in popularity.
Those types of costumes usually reflect current pop culture. TV show characters from Game of Thrones are big right now. So are DC and Marvel costumes based on the comic book series. “DC has the best villains as far as costumes are concerned and Marvell has the better superheroes,” said Marshall. Horror movie villains never go away. Jason, Freddy, Chucky, and Leatherface are all popular costumes. So are video game characters like Mario Bros.
Era pieces are cyclical in popularity. This year, Marshall said the 1950s are out, but anything from the 20s and 40s are in. Current runway fashion trends from the 70s and 80s are also reflected in many of this year’s costumes. Their most popular dress, the Ophelia, pulls from both the Victorian era and the old west. Satin ribbons tie the corset top that attaches to a puffy layered lace skirt. “It looks good on every woman,” said Marshall who emphasized the importance of catering to all shapes and sizes. “This dress goes up to a 4X.”
Their wigs range in price from $12 to $125 and come in various lengths, styles, and colors. There is everything from the simple man-bun wig to the extravagant Marie Antoinette. False eyelashes range from classic black to Mardi Gras purple. And makeup spans from drugstore lipstick to glow-in-the-dark body paint. “It’s not always about what you wear but what’s on you. Some people forego costumes altogether. Denver has a very strong body paint community,” said Marshall.
“We are one of the few places that has a makeup artist on staff to give you advice. Not just what to use, but how to use it,” said Marshall, who emphasized customers cannot only learn how to apply body art at the store, they can also hire professionals on staff to do it for them.
The possibilities this Halloween are limited only by your imagination. And don’t forget. “Everything you want basically comes in a sexy version,” said Marshall.