Friday October 12, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The seasonal Halloween shops in the Berkshires are bustling with people looking for that one special costume, whether they want to look scary, weirdly funny, or just plain weird.

Kara Demler, who owns Berkshire Costume Co., a year-round shop at 31 South St. in Pittsfield, said her business offers an "eclectic mix" of costumes.

This year, Demler said folks are visiting her shop to look for couple's costumes, such as Raggedy Anne and Andy, but there are also the reliable get-ups, such as gangster, saloon girl, cowboy, fairy tale, and medieval and renaissance outfits.

Her custom costuming also outfits anyone looking to be witches and vampires, and there are always the obscure requests, which Demler aims to procure. Those requests can range from obscure Star Wars to animé characters.

Many of the costumes Berkshire Costume Co. offers are money-saving rentals since costumes are typically one-time wears. Rentals are less expensive.

"People are more interested in renting than buying," Demler said. "The packaged costumes don't tend to me as nice."

Open year-round for costumed occasions besides Halloween, Bespoke Costuming, at 146 First St., focuses on custom-made swag rather than manufactured costumes and accessories. Bespoke Cos tuming has mostly clothing that the owner, Kathy Kearns, has either made, bought or found herself since opening her business last fall.

"You'll win every time with with a custom-made costume," Kearns said.


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"Some people really get into Halloween and want to be the best ones at the party."

Kearns showed off the custom "steampunk" look available at Bespoke Costuming. The look, modeled after the recent big-screen incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, is one of the more popular custom get-ups this year, Kearns said.

"The biggest thing is that you won't pay that much more for something that's custom than something that's trademarked and in a bag," Kearns said.

Party Barn, at 525 S. Main St. in Lanesborough, has seen a demand for costumes that will inspire howls of laughter as opposed to shrieks of terror.

"The requests are less scary and more grown men in tooth fairy costumes," said Party Barn co-owner Marcia Paris, motioning to such a costume on a store rack. "A lot of people like to have fun making fun of different actors with their costume, too."

Group-themed costumes, like different colored M&Ms or "The Brady Bunch," have been a big draw at Party Barn too, Paris said.

With the success of AMC's "The Walking Dead," and the zombie apocalypse theories, zombified Berkshire residents can expect to be seen roaming the streets on Halloween night.

Costumed mannequins stand in a window display at Bespoke Costuming in Pittsfield.
Costumed mannequins stand in a window display at Bespoke Costuming in Pittsfield. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

Luckily, the guidelines for what a zombie should wear are very vague, so any of the custom clothes that Kearns showed off -- ranging from blazers for the men to flapper-style dresses for the ladies -- could be worn as a zombie.

"That's the beauty of the zombie, you can wear whatever your heart wants," Kearns said. "It's all about the makeup."

Gnarly-looking prosthetics and fake blood to zombify yourself are some of the manufactured materials available at the local costume shops.

Pop culture has a certain pull over the Halloween season's hottest costumes, as indicated at Spirit Halloween Super Store, at 690 Merrill Road in Pittsfield. The season outlet sells many products licensed after movies, television or books.

The full-body costume modeled after the foul-mouthed teddy bear in this year's hit movie "Ted" has since sold out. A pseudo-S&M section is a nod to the "50 Shades of Grey" phenomenon.

"I had someone ask me if we carried a pregnant belly for children," said Tanya Weeks, a sales associate and guru on costuming. "I guess that had something to do with the MTV show."

Weeks showed off each section of the store, including the clown costumes which don't get much interest, to the occasional crude-humored adult costumes, the wildly popular "Monster High" gear for the tweens, and the superhero costumes for the kids.

Cow and pig costumes are giving Batman and The Avengers a run in terms of costume popularity this year, Weeks said.

"We can't keep cows and pigs in stock," she said.

Business at Spirit Halloween is split evenly between children and adults interested in getting dressed up -- or down -- for Halloween.

"We've sold more and more plus-sizes over the years," Weeks said. "I think companies are starting to recognize there's a demographic there."

To contact Adam Poulisse:
apoulisse@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6214.
On Twitter: @BE_Poulisse