Costume Shopping with the A.R.T.

For Jeannette Hawley, the Costume Shop Manager at the American Repertory Theater, Halloween isn’t much different to the average workday. But she acknowledges that it’s a different case for everyone else. “I think it’s a chance for people to pull out the stops and express who they really are,” she said. “Or to express the opposite of who they are.”

Hawley’s favorite type of costume is the visual pun. Group costumes—or “puzzle-piece” costumes, as she called them—allow someone to interact with their friends. In terms of subject, it helps to turn to a topic that fits the group dynamic. “One of my most memorable Halloween parties was at a veterinary school, where everyone was dressed as a different cow disease,” Hawley recalled. Other sources of inspiration could include favorite books or movies, or even works of art.

Putting a spin on the standard costume is another option. “Anyone can buy a costume in a bag,” Hawley said, “but if you’re going to do it, do it up—maybe it’s a mummy post-op, or a mummy who’s had a little bit of work done.”

If you’re stuck searching for a last-minute costume the hour before you’ve planned to go out, don’t go to your closet: instead, look for tin-foil, paper bags, and take-out boxes. “See if a pun comes to you, or a sensation or a feeling, or maybe you can convey an emotion through your costume,” Hawley explained.

But Halloween, Hawley noted, is more than just a silly opportunity to dress up. “You’re engaging in a non-verbal dialogue; you’re allowing them to be amused, enlightened, or moved in some way,” she said.

Hawley suggests the following vintage and used clothing shops, all accessible from Cambridge, where you can find clothes to adapt into other outfits.

Garment District/Boston Costume Shop – 200 Broadway, Cambridge.

Great Eastern Trading Company – 49 River St., Cambridge.

Vintage Revenge – 1105 Mass. Ave., Cambridge.

Bobby from Boston (“a little pricey”): 19 Thayer St., Boston.