At the Second Act consignment store, 538 Olympic Court, Iowa City, Halloween season is in full swing.
Every October, the staff rearrange the everyday clothing to make room for anything and everything that could be made into a costume.
“We have a warehouse full of things that are vintage or costume-like. We save all that stuff and fill the rooms with it in October,” owner Melissa Williams said.
She doubles her staff, from around three to six people, for the season. This year, that has meant hiring a professional costumer, Karle Meyers, who specializes in helping people find just the right dress, coat, hat and shoes to get the look they’re hoping for.
Unlike seasonal pop-up costume shops or big box retailers, the staff doesn’t focus on packaged, fully assembled costumes. Rather, they provide the pieces and are on standby to help customers create their own ensemble.
“That’s the part I really enjoy, the imaginative part where you put things together. Sometimes those costumes are more wonderful than anything that was packaged and made to be that. They’re more authentic,” Williams said.
She orders vintage goods specifically for the season from specialty companies. There are staples she knows she will always need — items such as poodle skirts, cowboy hats and Renaissance dresses.
Some costumes, she admits, are harder to create from her stock — such as superheroes.
“Batman. There are always people who want to be Batman,” she said.
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At Balloons Etc. and the Costume Emporium, 420 Second Ave. SE, in downtown Cedar Rapids, there are plenty of superhero costumes and other packaged looks for those who want a quick costume fix. But there also are racks of handmade, specialty costumes for rent.
Jacob and Kimberly Cowger own the store, and Jacob said he anticipates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton costumes will be big this year — a row of political masks stare down from a shelf above the register.
The year’s big movies always are costume drivers, as well as celebrity deaths. He anticipates plenty of Princes and David Bowies prowling the streets this year.
He hires an additional six people for the month of October, and recently hired two new people to play the Thrilla the Gorilla character, who waves a sign advertising the shop to passer-by on First Avenue.
He also sells makeup and has a demonstration area where staff can show customers how to apply it for the proper effect.
“We never like to send someone out the door without knowing how to do the fun stuff,” he said. “Helping people create the look and create the character, that’s the fun part.”