With Halloween just around the corner, the season of the big box pop-up costume store is upon us once again. But just because this is the holiday of the undead, doesn’t mean you have to settle for a costume that’s soulless. If you’re planning to dress up for the big night, Theatre Garage, a south-side costumier that prides itself on its support for local artisans, has you covered – in anything from a fuzzy purple dinosaur suit to a wide array of latex FX prosthetics.
“Definitely who we are is really important,” said owner and manager Christy Hutchinson, “that sets us apart from other places for sure, what our values are.”
Hutchinson and her business partner Tessa Stamp, first met as theatre techs at the Citadel and started Theatre Garage in 2009. They rescued an extensive costume collection from the Edmonton institution, Shirley Potter’s, which was going bankrupt after having been in the business of costume rentals and sales in Edmonton since the 1960s. As passionate craftspeople, Hutchinson and Stamp preserve Potter’s legacy through her costumes, but also the way in which she approached the costuming and dressmakers’ community.
As Hutchinson describes it, “people started costume shops and it seems like she helped them out, she didn’t [compete] with them. And, so that kind of became our mantra.”
Though Stamp left the business in 2015 to return to theatre work full-time, Hutchinson continues to support people who enter a tough industry, by collaborating with local creators and small businesses, and taking on students and apprentices wherever possible.
“There’s some really great people out there that deserve that training, and our city’s going to benefit from them,” she said.
Theatre Garage outfits several local theatre, music and dance companies (including Shakespeare in the Park, Alberta Opera and Shumka). They also offer tours and classes for school groups and host workshops in sewing and FX makeup year round. Halloween is, of course, their busiest time of year. While fad costumes may come and go, Hutchinson finds that creativity is one thing that never goes out of style: “People just come in with this idea and we’ve never heard of it, we probably will never do one again, and it’s super cool. And that’s one of the best parts, is hearing people’s ideas.”
Yet, for people still wondering what to dress up as this year, there appear to be some marked trends to follow for inspiration. “What seems to be a staple is zombies,” Hutchinson reveals. “We’re finding ‘scary’ [including ugly witches and vampires of the non-Twilight variety] is coming back,” and a lot of what she describes as “classic Halloween.
“I’ve helped lots of Brides of Frankenstein already!” she laughs.
But the most ghoulish costume isn’t necessarily the most memorable. “One that I’ll never forget,” says Hutchinson, “because it was just so clever, it was so simple, but it was really cool, was somebody was the gum on the bottom of their shoe. They got a pink outfit, and a hood and everything, painted their skin pink, and then they glued a shoe to their hood. And that was really cute.”
Theatre Garage (3711 98 St.) will be open Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thursdays 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. from now until Halloween.
– Celia Nicholls
Image courtesy of Theatre Garage