High-fashion Halloween

By Emily Ornberg

This year, Fuzzy tigers, sequined skeletons and polka-dotted monsters making their Halloween debut are chic enough to have been displayed on a runway.

This Halloween, customers at Chicago Costume, 1120 W. Fullerton Ave., have been more original and fashionable than in previous years, said Courtland Hickey, the store’s general manager.

“There’s a big crossover between fashion and costumes, and the trend is going towards higher-quality outfits and more stylish outfits instead of a sexy nurse or a sexy French maid or something like that,” Hickey said. “Instead, [customers] look for something more impressive, more unique.”

She believes Halloween costumes help people express their individuality and reveal an underlying style they may not be brave enough to wear every day.

“[People] put on a costume, and all of the sudden they become somebody else,” Hickey said. “They might be a very conservative person, but [when they put on a costume] they suddenly allow themselves to become fun and interesting.”

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent more than $2 billion on Halloween costumes in 2011. A 2012 survey conducted by BIGInsight, a market research firm, found that more than 33 percent of adults will look online for their Halloween costume inspiration, and 36 percent will find inspiration at a retail store.

This year’s most popular choices at Chicago Costume have been characters from recent blockbuster films like “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Avengers.” Hickey said costumes inspired by the viral Korean music video “Gangnam Style” have also been selling very well.

Hickey said that while customers may lean on popular characters and trends to craft their annual get-up, most people want to stand out.

“I can’t think of anyone who wants to be what everybody else is going to be,” she said. “There are a lot of different trends, but everyone wants to be something different.”

Chicago Costume teamed up with the restaurant Carnivale to host its 36th annual costume fashion show with the theme “Where the WILD Things Are” on Oct. 11. Monsters and goblins came to life on the runway, and models in head-to-toe body paint showcased Chicago Costume’s most popular pieces, including Wild Tigress and Rainbow Unicorn.

“People here [in Chicago] have a certain kind of liveliness,” Hickey said. “People come to us from all different parts of the city and share similar common bonds, [which] sometimes translates into funny Halloween costumes.”

Anna Glowacki, an independent Chicago costume designer, said the crossover between fashion and costume is extremely important in her work, and that working in the local market has been enjoyable because it doesn’t have as much competition as larger cities.

“Chicago has this very interesting vibe,” Glowacki said. “People are more laid back. We know we’re not the biggest city, so we’re not going to act like we’re trying to prove something. We just want to [dress people up as] something fun.”

Rachel Bare, a junior fashion studies major, said the trend of fashionable Halloween costumes relies on people’s willingness to be unique.

“I consider fashion a wearable art form,” Bare said. “[Halloween] is the one day where people are able to use their body as a canvas and become something they normally wouldn’t be able to because [any other day], people are afraid of stigmas and

being judged.”