by: midori tajiri-byrd
Costuming in New Orleans has its own brand of style. DIY culture is alive and well, from skilled costumers to average folks, we love to shop local and make our own costumes. “Putting together a costume can seem intimidating for many people”, says Shel Roumillat, of The New Orleans Costume Center, “but luckily there are many resources here for upping your costume game. Whether you hit up the pop-up costume sales, shop the various costume boutiques in town, make your own, or hire a designer to help you, its easier than you think to put together an awesome of a kind costume”.
MAKING IT YOURSELF
The New Orleans Costume Center is unique in that you can both buy or sell handmade costumes and accessories as well as hire costume designers or purchase materials to make them yourself. Their philosophy supports the idea that costuming, like art, is for everyone, and you don’t need to be a professional to create something beautiful and fun. They carry local artists designs like those of Caroline Thomas, whose work ranges from beautiful, feathery headdresses to fun, papier mache flowers and novelty headpieces in shapes of UFOs or Po’ Boys.
We asked some of our favorite New Orleans costume designers, like Caroline, for tips on taking Halloween to the next level this year and several pointed out the trend in lighting. “If you are hitting the town after dark, all the details of your costume can get lost in bad lighting," says Caroline. But new options in lightweight LEDs lights can be a game changer. A string of battery operated mini-fairy lights or LED votive candles are discrete and portable enough incorporate into a wig or a headpiece. For the more ambitious, check out youtube videos on Arduino (programming strips of LEDs to change color and flash in patterns).
Pro tip: rather than glueing them in, attach the lights with velcro to make it easier to turn them on and off or change batteries”.
If you plan to make your own costume, check out the supplies at Jefferson Variety, for unique specialty fabrics, sequins, fringe, feathers, hat forms and bulk glitter. The New Orleans Costume Center has unique materials and supplies as well. Then head to RicRack or Uptown Needle & Craft, where you can take classes, buy patterns and fabric or use the sewing machines to complete your project. Then head to one of designer, Ellen Macomber’s workshops to learn how to create your own headdress!
"Unicorn Dream" headpiece made by local costume designer Caroline Thomas (blue) and "Iron Lion" headpiece made by local costume designer Shel Roumiallat. (multi)
“I remember the Halloween costumes my Mom made”, says designer, Jenny Campbell. “One year, she made a Christmas tree costume out of crepe Paper. It was beautiful, but it rained, and I was green for days!” If you are worried about your skill level, you may prefer to have a designer create your costume for you. Thankfully, there are many artists in New Orleans to choose from, each with their own unique style. Jenny Campbell has created some of the memorable costumes you have seen around town, such as the Running of the Bulls mascot or her signature Marie Antoinette style wigs with moving snow globes or fish tanks in them. For large wigs and headdresses, Jenny recommends wiring them to your wig or head for added stability. However, you may need to lay sideways in the backseat of the Uber if your costume is too tall to drive!
We asked designer, Julianne Lagniappe about costume trends this year and based on her commissions, Bowie themes are still going strong. “I’ve made three variations of Ziggy Stardust costumes already this season!” Her unique designs look both crafty and fine art. They combine vibrant sections of color and top stitching with fantasy inspired icons, like pink gators, unicorns, and eyeballs. Her recent collection at Bad to the Bone, Rescued on the Runway at Eiffel Society, featured ruffle unicorn bolero jackets, futuristic patchwork jackets and turbans.
2017 COSTUME TRENDS
Clowns of every kind are back, from Pennywise to pretty Glam Clowns. Skulls looks, ranging from traditional to full Glitter Skull makeup are gaining popularity and Pixar’s upcoming Day of the dead themed animation could mean early resurgence in Sugar Skull looks. TV Shows like Game of Thrones and American Horror Story continue to provide new seasons full of costume inspo. Bob’s Burgers, Rick and Morty and Harley Quinn and the Joker remain popular group/ couple costumes. Unicorns, mermaids, galaxy looks and Bowie show no sign of leaving and I expect to see a lot Wonder Woman looks (traditional and new). Classic costume themes can get an update by adding LED lights, blacklight paint or neon colors.
WIGS AND MAKEUP
Most people may finish their look with wigs and makeup, but I like to start at the top and work down. If you don’t trust your wig styling skills, its time to reach out to a pro. Most folks here know about Fifi Mahoney’s, where you can buy or commission pre-styled wigs, compete with built in accessories or headdresses or pick up wigs in any color under the sun. Bonus, if you purchase your wig from Fifi’s, you can bring it back for styling and resetting at a fraction of the cost of taking it elsewhere. They also carry costume, theatrical and FX makeup supplies and are staffed by some of the most colorful (literally) professionals in town. If you didn’t find you wig there, head to High Maintenance Beauty Supply on Rampart and their helpful staff will help you find everything from natural looking wigs to colorful party wigs, extensions, and the best deals on beauty eyelashes.
If you are looking for a bolder lash, its time to take on the lash trend that will ensure you more followers on social media. Chimera Lashes creates durable, lightweight, re-useable paper lashes in a variety of colors and sizes. The spiky shape lends itself well to costumes with bold impact or looks that need to read well from a distance. Plus, with a look that large you can get away with less makeup and the curved shape makes them easy to apply. Another quick way to boost your makeup look that doesn’t require makeup skills is by adding glitter. We prefer Elektra Cosmetics cosmetic glitter, which, like Chimera Lashes, is cruelty-free. They offer 30 shades of mircofine glitter, transformer liquid, 3 shades of chunky Bolt Balm, which comes in an aloe based gel, as well as several new limited edition Bolt Balm colors!
If you are planning on face or body painting or FX details for your makeup, start at Last Looks Makeup and Hair Source in Metairie. They carry pro level supplies and their staff takes the time to recommend the products you need as well as show you how to use them. The Vieux Carre Hair Store in Riverbend also has a selection of facepainting and FX supplies as well as staples like fake blood and fangs.
If you want to try your hand at doing your own makeup, watch for costume makeup workshops, like mine, at Embodyment Salon & Spa, where you can take a group class or customize and individual or small group session to learn your own techniques. If you prefer to have if done by the experts, reserve an appointment early from me or my fellow makeup artists and face/body painters.
Pro tip: pin inspo looks for your costume and pass them along early to your makeup artist, wig stylist or costume designer. This helps them plean early for supplies, technique and timing on busy Halloween weekends!
PIECING IT TOGETHER
If you plan to piece together your look, keep an eye out for pop-up bazaars like Cree McCree’s annual Halloween Boo-tique at The Healing Center on October 28th. It features numerous local designers’ handmade costumes and accessories, as well as vintage clothing and costume supplies. Or head to shops like Kawaii Nola or Miette on Magazine street, for artist made accessories and jewelry as well as colorful wigs, cosplay and unique collectibles. You will find wigs and accessories by Minty Mixx, headdresses by Faerie Things and 8 bit style lego jewelry by Dollz Haus.
For those looking for a fabulous one-piece costume that’s both comfortable and flattering, check out the “portal suits”, onsies, leggings and dresses from Alicia Zenobia or the rompers, bathing suits and “mansies” (onsie rompers for man) from Ginger Schwiekert. They are made from high quality lycra in a variety of fantasy themed or novelty printed patterns. These piece also work well as a base to create multiple costume looks by changing your accessories. She Comes in Peace, by Dara Quick, is another favorite label for fantasy, unicorn, galaxy and alien themed looks in wearable seperates and harnesses that may creep their way into your regular street wear!
If you haven’t found what you are looking for, stop at Uptown Costume & Dance Supply on Magazine for one-stop costume shopping. They wont have the handmade costumes, but they will have a full selection of costume kits and wigs as well as costume and FX makeup.