First published on 27 Oct 2011. Updated on 24 Oct 2012.
This year don’t leave your Halloween costume to the last minute, panic, frantically ransack the house for the materials required for a lame home-made number, then curse your lack of forward planning when you spend the entire party in fear for your life as cigarettes get waved a bit too close to your highly flammable and rapidly disintegrating toilet paper mummy outfit. Make an effort and see what one of Melbourne’s Fancy Dress and Costume shops can offer. Remember: splashing a bit of red paint on some of your old clothes just isn’t going to cut it.
A striking and always vibrantly window-dressed Victorian corner terrace has been home to this Fitzroy institution for over 25 years. With 10 colourful rooms of wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling costumes, wigs, hats and accessories you’re pretty much guaranteed to find what you’re looking for, and have a ball searching for it. As befits the location the stock is imaginative and unusual, and the savvy staff members, all poached from an art and design background, are passionate about helping customers build their outfit from the ground up and then tweak it to get it spot on. Being able to bookend your costume hunting with visits to a couple of the many excellent nearby cafes is a nice bonus too.
Best outfit: Priding itself on having no pre-assembled costumes, custom attire is the go at Rose Chong’s – a recent commission was a latex-heavy Mad-Max inspired post-apocalyptic marauder outfit. If the fact that alterations had to be made to allow for trips to the bathroom isn’t testament to above-and-beyond customer service, then I’m not sure what is...
218 Gertrude St, Fitzroy.
There’s a real everything-including-the-kitchen-sink feel to this place with its massive collection of classic and somewhat more unusual costume possibilities, make-up, masks and an impressively comprehensive selection of fake facial hair for the hirsutely minded masquerader. If you’re looking to ruffle a few feathers this Halloween, Centre Stage could be the place for you: why not side-step the obvious vampire and witch costumes and opt for a pope outfit instead? No? Then how about risking the ire of Buddhist instead with a head-to-toe golden Buddha costume? Or maybe you want to really throw caution and good sense to the wind and plump for a full Nazi uniform... Hey, that worked out just fine for Prince Harry, right?
Best outfit: If you can do without causing any controversy, you can’t go wrong getting kitted out as a zombie here – a pre-Zombie Shuffle get-together is planned for the 28 October. Show up and get your make-up touched up whilst talking brains with the like-minded walking dead before shuffling on down to the CBD.
298 Lygon St, Brunswick East.
Located a stone’s throw away from the bay in trendy Williamstown, this little treasure trove has been trading in second hand clothes, retro furniture, and old records for almost two decades, and has recently started a fancy dress and costume hire service. Drawing on its excellent collection of vintage wear it specialises in outfits from just about every decade of the last century, but also has a good choice of other options ranging from Catwoman to Captain Picard. Be warned: go to Bam Bam’s and you’ll probably leave with more than just a Halloween costume once you start rummaging through some of the vintage goodies they have for sale.
Best outfit: Make the most of their 60’s and 70’s collection and give it a horror twist: the staff will surely be able to give you a few tips on how to rock an undead Elvis outfit.
120 Douglas Pde, Williamstown.
With a range of costumes and standard of service as classy as the stately colonial building it’s housed in, the Costume Shop fully deserves the reputation it has earned over 23 years of operation. Most of the costumes are designed and made by hand in a workshop on the premises, and the quality certainly shows. Friendly and experienced staff members are happy to go out of their way to help customers select an outfit and make good use of the store’s vast selection of accessories and make up, whilst two floors of costumes means that you’re not short of options. Also earns bonus points for having the most disturbing Halloween accoutrement – a freaky vampire baby doll.
Best outfit: The stunning, blood splattered Corpse Bride wedding dress that is currently enlivening the Halloween window display is sure to turn heads (and half-fill any room). Just try not to get it caught in any taxi doors...
235-239 City Rd, Southbank.
This winningly anachronistic establishment, nestled between the camera stores and mobile phone outlets of Elizabeth Street, has kept Melbourne’s illusionists in top hats and white rabbits since the 1930s. It may not be a costume shop as such, but it stocks a nice range of accessories to put the finishing touches to your get-up and boasts a Halloween section during October. It also houses an impressive line in quality masks that are rather unsettlingly displayed trophy-style along the back walls, and includes everything from Michael Myers to the V for Vendetta mask made famous by arch hacking collective Anonymous. Costume shopping aside, your inner child will thank you for visiting Bernard’s; it’s hard not to be won over by its nostalgic charm as you step through the carnivalesque shop fronting and ascend into a world of magic tricks, plastic fangs and whoopee cushions.
Best outfit: Ensure that you have any party’s creepiest outfit and splash out on one of the spooky ventriloquist dolls with the painted on eyes. Comes with the added bonus of countless exciting nights spent lying awake in bed listening for noises coming from the cupboard you stored it in.
1/187 Elizabeth St, Melbourne.