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The Lagniappe

Graduated from college? Check. Over searching for any excuse to wear a costume? Nope.

I’ve heard that you have a zephyr-load of opportunities (read: parties) to dress up in something absurd/fantastic/slutty/hilarious. For this reason, you’re probably not as excited about Halloween as I am. But I would categorize dressing up as one of those “you can never have enough of a good thing” things. Snowboarding through fresh powder, BerryLine, and clean, warm laundry also fall into that list. Furthermore, the moons have aligned this year; Halloween is on a Saturday night. It’s the perfect storm for a good time. This week’s Lagniappe will attempt to provide an overview of shops in the vicinity you can hit up to create an impressive and amazing costume for the best autumnal holiday. (United Nations Day and Grandparents’ Day really didn’t stand a chance.)

I wanted to make the column about my quest for the perfect costume, but my type-A personality, coupled with the less-than-stellar Halloween I had last year and subsequent drive to make this year better, made it so that my outfit was already purchased by October 5th. Nevertheless, I was determined to write on the subject. I dragged my dear friend Tia along to costume shops in the vain hopes she’d find a suitable get-up and I could document that journey. Unfortunately, she was plagued with indecision; I don’t blame her. It seems picking a costume is like deciding on whom to ask to prom: ultimately it doesn’t matter, but its memory will persist in pictures for years to come, and you want it to be interesting-and if not interesting, at least hot. Instead, let’s pretend I have two friends named Caroline and Colin. These two dashing people need a costume, but aren’t sure quite what they want to be. Here’s a guide for them:

The Garment District/Boston Costume (200 Broadway, near Kendall Square) is a one-stop shop for my friends. This place has most everything Halloween-related. The first floor is Boston Costume and the Garment District’s (non-Halloween) dollar-a-pound area (which is exactly what it sounds like); the second floor is The Garment District. The costume madness sprawls throughout the store, so the distinction means very little. There are themed alcoves throughout-if Colin is in the mood to lay down the law come October 31st, he’ll find a section devoted to police-related costumes. If Caroline thinks she wants to party like it’s 1699, she can head upstairs where there is a clothing rack replete with trampy Baroque ensembles. Wigs, masks, glasses, shoes: this place has absolutely everything. On the right side of the first floor is a matrix of pre-packaged, waiting-to-be-plucked-and-worn costumes if the two aren’t feeling inspired to come up with something on their own. The Garment District also has an assortment of vintage clothes, well-organized by era and color. Another bonus: the store is open until midnight. I would tell Colin and Caroline to go sooner than later, however, as I was there on October 12th-it was busy and popular supplies were thinning.

A closer jaunt from the HBS campus is Spirit (615 Arsenal Street). Caroline and Colin can drive down Western Avenue and be at this costume “superstore” (their phrase, not mine) in mere minutes. Accessible through the mall (by Old Navy), this is another spot for all things Halloween. At Spirit, Caroline can find “Sexy Marauder Wench/fairy princess/Mrs. Claus” costumes that are the provenance of all those “Halloween is just a night for women to dress slutty” jeers/cheers. Colin can channel his inner 11-year-old boy and buy a Street Fighter outfit, or summon his inner creep and get the Sesame Street Elmo Adult Costume (think: “Tickle Me!”). There are hundreds of choices here, but I would suggest to my friends to come with something in mind, otherwise they may end up with costume remorse.

If Caroline and Colin are feeling like going for all-out impressive, they should head to The Costume Company just up Mass. Avenue in Arlington (489 Massachusetts Avenue). Colin can find an elaborate Roman warrior or Napoleon costume. Caroline can become Cleopatra or Anne Boleyn in an instant. Most costumes are rentals, though there are some retro and mod pieces and accessories for sale. It is worth the trip, but go soon; the best costumes are getting snatched up by the minute.

If Caroline and Colin are feeling especially lazy (or pressed for time), I’ve heard Hootenanny in Harvard Square (36 JFK Street) also has a decent selection of Halloween garb. I can neither confirm nor deny this claim; when it came to the time I had allotted for this store on my research trip, I was so sick of wading through costume stores that I threw in the towel. My aversion to flammable fabrics and synthetic hair just happens to be stronger than my yen for responsible journalism.

I’d direct my friends to Oona’s (1210 Mass Avenue) if they are feeling like getting creative. Every cranny and nook in this vintage store is filled with gems that could transform a generic costume into a nonpareil Halloween ensemble. The store has phenomenal hats, jewelry, and eyewear, as well as a worthy mix of used costumes and vintage threads (adding some authenticity to your ’70s pimp outfit). Good things come in small packages.and Oona’s is proof.

Besides Jon & Kate, Lady Gaga, and Michael Jackson, I’ve heard that being a hipster is a popular costume choice this year. This trend may be exacerbated by the relative ease of purchasing the hipster uniform-tight skinny jeans, plaid button-down or ironic shirt, non-Rx glasses and wry moustache (if it’s in your powers to grow one)-but it also may be because this “counterculture,” once confined to Brooklyn, Portland, and a handful of other metropolitan areas, has become hysterically mainstream. When a trend reaches small town Minnesota, it’s time to move on. Complicit in the peddling of this post-ironic lifestyle is Urban Outfitters (11 JFK Street). If Colin and Caroline would like to join the ranks of our peers in mocking another rank of our peers, I’d point them towards UO to get geared up. American Apparel (47 Brattle Street) is also a hub for all things hipster. Last year I was here a few days before Halloween because it does offer an enormous selection of basic items from which a great (non-hipster) costume can be built. To trick out the hipster outfit I’d suggest toting a case of PBR while riding a fixed-gear bike. Additionally, make sure to research some obscure bands to name-drop throughout the evening. And when people ask if you’re a hipster, be sure to reply with an officious “no.”

Happy hunting! Hopefully this will spur you to venture forth and uncover the perfect outfit for a night of lighthearted revelry. If anyone wants to see my costume, I’m accepting party invitations.

AUTHOR’S BIOGRAPHY
Jenna Bernhardson is from Minnesota, and is in her second year as a Research Associate at HBS. When not working diligently in the basement of Morris, she seeks out adventure and danger in Cambridge and the surrounding area. The mission of the Lagniappe is to push human achievement to new heights.

October 19, 2009
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