The South Bay and Peninsula present options to suit your budget. While standardized Halloween costumes can be purchased from a pop-up shop, the area is sprinkled with independent retailers and charity shops where staff will help you create a one-of-kind outfit from scratch. Elaborate looks can be rented from bountiful rails worthy of backstage at the opera house. Or, focus on outstanding accessories to make your mark. The bad news is, Halloween won’t wait and procrastination won’t help. It’s advised to put on your thinking cap early before the best bits at these stores fly out the door like howling autumn winds.
House of Humor
747 El Camino Real
Redwood City, CA 94063
Bring your inner Frankenstein and your fashionista imagination. If you’re short on inspiration, no worries, because the staff here will steer you in the right direction at House of Humor. Using its vast collection of accessories, props, wigs, false facial hair, fake blood and more, you’ll build your own costume with assistance from the expert team. Jack Greenbaum and his family have been running the business for 30 years. Be assured, you’ll never see your double at the party. There’s a city parking lot in the rear and the shop is open seven days a week year-round.
1952 W. El Camino Real
Mountain View, CA 94040
Wondering what’s trending for 2014? Pixels and middle-aged slobs. The top two costumes in demand are the yellow minions from “Despicable Me 2” and bearded wonders like Si and Martin from “Duck Dynasty.” If you’re into your iPhone, check out the virtual wound from Digital Dudz, stocked here. This “giant hit” beating heart visible through your open shirt will set you back $30, but it’s all you need to creep everyone out. Steve manages seven independently owned shops well known to South Bay and Peninsula clientele. He is happy to transfer stock between locations if customers require it. Steve adds, “We never met a tutu we couldn’t sell. People add them on top of all kinds of costumes.”
Penny’s Costume Rental
333 Sequoia Ave.
Redwood City, CA 94061
If you cannot find it with Penny’s help, it likely doesn’t exist. There’s a distinct lack of polyester in rooms packed to the rafters with 800 rental costumes. The theme at Penny’s place is much more one of authenticity in crushed velvet than factory goods in plastic bags. Many regulars swear by rental as the way to afford regalia that you’d never find if exploring strictly retail purchases. Plus, dressing up in a new theme every year is more fun than re-visiting the duds you invested in wearing last year. The men’s costumes are as plentiful as those for the ladies. Pick up the phone, it’s by appointment only.
1313 Laurel St., Suite 204
San Carlos, CA 94070
If you’re ready to explore rental costume themes beyond Dracula and his bride, Cynthia has angels and devils, pirates and mermaids and dragons and unicorns. Cynthia is sole proprietor and a natural with the kids, delighting them with her eclectic collection. A fixture on the local fairs, festivals and children’s party scene, Cynthia has open house hours for busy times like Halloween, plus appointments available for evenings and weekends. Budget $25 or under for the kids’ corner and up to $40 for the complete adult get-up. Parking is available at the third floor suite located in a professional office building.
169 State St.
Los Altos, CA 94022
Retail, rental or gently used are your three costume options where you can dress up while supporting a cause at this non-profit store staffed by volunteers. Complete looks include flapper, convict, witch and Superman for about $30 if you go for a rental. Or, invest in hats, bunny ears, pirate eye patches, masks and more from the retail side. Alternatively, dip into pre-owned treasures in the $5 to $20 range. It’s all managed by Rose, who reports that 92 percent raised goes to community efforts of Assistance League programs, including foster child, college-bound, baby bundles and temporary housing for outpatients requiring proximity to Stanford Hospital.