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Playing dress-up at any age

In October, people trade in their everyday garb to dress as pirates, jokers and genies. Shopping for a costume early in the month is a definite must, whether the occasion is Guavaween or Halloween. Plenty of stores in the Tampa area offer a selection of costumes for the Halloween season but not many in the area specialize in costume wear.

The popularity of many costumes stems from blockbuster movies. For example, the success of Chicago means beaded flapper wear and Zoot suits are stocked in stores in the Tampa Bay Area. Likewise, the second movie in the Matrix series has spawned a whole section devoted to the main characters. In Tampa, the most widely carried outfit this year is pirate costumes. Though pirates have always been a perennial favorite of Halloween revelers and Gasparilla celebrants, the popularity of the movie Pirates of the Caribbean has eye patches flying off the shelves.

Party City

Some students may want more elaborate costumes but at the same time stay within a budget.

“I’d like to get all decked out, but that depends on how much money I have to spend,” said senior Christina Catalso.

Those short on funds can find something at Party City. Of the specialized costume shops in the area, the four Tampa area locations of Party City are easily the most commercial. The store contains everything needed for a monster Halloween bash. Those who own a dog can even find a costume for their canine companion. There’s nothing like a pirate dog with an eye patch to complement a pirate ensemble. For those who would rather coordinate their costume with a significant other, there are plenty of couple-themed costumes available, such as Sonny and Cher, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, or Dorothy and the Scarecrow. All costumes are prepackaged and exhibited by number and picture on large displays. Some of the costumes look better in the pictures, but dressing rooms are available. The prices for full costumes range from about $13 to about $200.

Wooden Nickel

Anyone willing to take a walk on the wild side should head to the Wooden Nickel. Besides costumes, this shop also features adult toys. Those under 18 shouldn’t bother. But, those 18 and older should bring identification with proof of age. The costumes here are also prepackaged. Many of the prepackaged costumes here are also available at Party City. The same Neo Matrix costume went for twice as much at the Wooden Nickel as it did at Party City. The Wooden Nickel warrants a visit in the costume search because it has more sexual versions of regular costumes. Dressing as a doctor is more fun if the doctor’s coat proclaims you a certified gynecologist. Any woman looking to bare a little skin can be a schoolgirl, a naughty nurse or a sexy version of Disney’s Snow White. On another shelf, costumes best not worn outside the bedroom can be found.

La France

USF theater major, April Carter, plans to dress up as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. “I’m going to Ybor to find a sexy black Goth-style corset and maybe a wig downtown,” Carter said. The Ybor-located La France carries vintage clothing and has been a staple of Gasparilla-goers and Halloween partiers for years. It has been part of the Tampa scene for 30 years. Anybody looking for a period piece from the 1800s to the early 1970s should check out La France. Be warned, though: the prices can be steep, but the product is worth the price.

La France carries actual vintage as well as “new vintage,” or reproductions of original vintage pieces. The advantage of new vintage, according to owner Jill Wax, is that a vintage piece can be copied and made to fit a variety of sizes. The majority of La France’s stock is actual vintage but Wax reports that about 20 percent are new vintage.

Features Costumes, Inc.

Features Costumes, Inc. is perhaps the best Halloween makeup resource in Tampa.

Quality Halloween makeup is often hard to find, but Features offers makeup of high caliber at reasonable prices. Staff members happily demonstrate the correct mix of colors to apply for a bruised skin look. The walls are lined with kits to make scars, stitches, wounds and freshly stapled flesh. Full latex masks of gargoyles, psycho clowns and other miscreants of the night are available with easy to follow instructions so that an ordinary person can get a professional result.

Be sure and take a look at the reasonably priced accessories like a $3 -coconut bra, $2-corncob pipe and a $1-Olympic-style medal.

Costumes can be rented or bought. The rental costumes actually look good even when not on a model, unlike some of the prepackaged stuff found elsewhere. Rentals run from $10 and up. The extensive selection includes Bavarian yodelers, astronauts, Sponge Bob Square Pants and elaborate period gowns. They carry established classics, like witches and clowns, but also keep up with current trends. Features Costumes carries sturdier, more convincing versions of the Matrix-inspired costumes available for rental or purchase. If it can’t be found at Features, it probably isn’t available anywhere in Tampa.