If you learned anything from last year's thrown-together Jesus/homeless man outfit, it's that you've got to start planning for Halloween early, before all the good getups are gone and the lines are out the door. Not sure where to start? We've got a monster list of area shops with the gear you'll need to create a contest-winning costume. So get to browsing...and if you happen upon a Fort Wayne Mad Ant outfit, please, please, please let us know.
With a location spanning an entire block on Milwaukee and an 800-USA-WIGS phone number, Fantasy is all business when it comes to your Halloween costume. Specializing in new and old pop-culture icons, like Harry Potter, and an adult selection fit for a Comic Con convention, this shop claims it can get its claws on any outfit you dream up. Good news for those nocturnal types that only wake during full moons: Fantasy's online selection is convenient and far-reaching.
One of the liveliest Halloween destinations in Lakeview—and the go-to spot for ironic decade costumes—Ragstock has your '50s- to '90s-inspired outfits covered. Amongst '80s prom apparel and Richie Tenenbaum-inspired sweatbands, hipsters and yuppies rub elbows in search of the perfect find. Though the selection predictably thins out come Halloween, the prices here are retro-inspired. Occasionally, Ragstock has been known to stock specialty items like used roller skates, but you'll have to get there quick. If you really can't find what you want here, the Wicker Park and Woodfield Mall locations have a decent selection of new and used clothing and accessories, too.
Batteries Not Included
With a namesake that (we like to think) was inspired by the '80s flick about alien mechanical life-forms, this spot offers the kind of kitsch you'll usually find draped around brides-to-be. Yet, aside from the stand-by risque accessories, Batteries sells costume sets from $20-$1,000 and has an extensive closet of options (there's even more at the Wicker Park location). Garb skews toward the revealing, but if you're doing an "adult take" on an old classic, be sure to stop in.
If you're seeking blindingly metallic platform shoes, an eye-raising makeup section, disco balls and an impressive selection of wigs, Beatnix has you covered for campy glamour and drag-queen vamping. $20-$400 will cover you here—even if your costume doesn't. For boys that, sigh, will be boys, Beatnix also stocks good-quality, used tuxes and some reasonably priced second-hand clothes.
Belmont Army (Lakeview)
It's a little different from the original, but sometimes, change can be good. Belmont Army now houses four floors of clothing and accessories. The top two (army surplus and vintage) are where you'll want to go for your costume needs. If you really can't find anything (doubtful), you can always head to the other location in Wicker Park.
With a 20,000-foot space, this is the Midwest's largest source for masquerade events. It outfits masquerade balls and national opera productions across the country, and even has Second City as a client. So, while much of Broadway's inventory is probably overkill for that Wrigleyville pub crawl you had planned, you can count on these guys if you're looking for a standing O. Though Broadway requires a pretty hefty rental deposit, it allots a two-night rental period.
The go-to spot for both extensively planned outfits and last-minute getups, Chicago Costume services DePaul country and beyond. If you're going to ask one of the knowledgeable staff members for his or her input, make sure you're specific: There are at least a dozen takes on obscure choices, like Dorothy and Toto, and an overwhelming amount of classics. Those looking for finishing touches for near-perfect costumes can count on Chicago Costume for a wealth of accessories, like gangster chains, golf visors and baseball socks. The basement operation rents out anything from Santa Claus costumes to banana suits (for $65-$125), and they'll even email you pictures of what's available so you don't make an unnecessary trip. The shop opens up additional locations for the October push -- find all locations here.
Hollywood is worth a trip even on non-holidays; those looking for the funkiest, '70s-inspired duds will do well with the vintage racks here). For the big day, guys will find a satisfying selection of leather jackets and ugly sweaters, while aspiring tarts will love the '40s-inspired kicks and dresses. The prices may be a bit higher than at Ragstock, its upstairs neighbor, but you're sure to find at least one kitschy item to kick-start your costume. If all else fails, though, pick up a plastic hand-shaped chair and call it a day: Shopping can be so unglamorous!
Theatrical makeup and antique props set this Rogers Park costumer apart from other spots. Though it primarily supplies local theater companies and shows, Lost Eras lets customers rent from its extensive costume department. Additionally, the retail selection is surprisingly affordable: Pick up anything from Star Trek jumpsuits, costing around $30, all the way up to a Victorian-Era getup for around $200.
Magical Mystery Tour
The suburban haven for pranksters and amateur magicians, Magical Mystery Tour also stocks a solid Halloween section. You'll find a few interesting items, such as handmade Mardi Gras masks and pet costumes, as well as a bunch of those outfits that come in plastic bags. Either way, this store is a trip!
Mar Ray Costumes
Palatine's year-round cove of fright and delight, Mar Ray specializes in your standard makeup and fake blood offerings, as well as a notable selection of second-hand and vintage clothes. Though some of the masks look like they've been around for a while, you have to give Mar Ray props for its prices: Rentals go for $50, with a three-day time rental period.
This one-stop shop for gloriously obnoxious trinkets, like noisemakers and glitter guns, tricks out into a Halloween costume and supply store come October. If you're looking for a dirt-cheap superhero costume that will carry you through a weekend's worth of both hard drinking and serious ghouling, swing by the City. But don't forget the noisemakers!
Wondering how to express your love for the night of ghosts and goblins? Say it with Strange Cargo: Steps from Wrigley Field, the shop lets you choose your own iron-on graphic for a custom Halloween t-shirt. With a variety of retro tchotchkes and a decent selection of wigs, Strange is also a good bet for last-minute touches and Halloween basics.
Other spots to stake out:
This transient costume shop mysteriously pops up before the big holiday. Take advantage.
Salvation Army is a classic standby for rare goods and assorted accessories like roller skates and golf clubs.
Army Navy Surplus Store
This general thrift store and good spot for in-depth army costumes has several Chicago locations.
Looking for more ways to celebrate the season? We've got you covered with scarily accurate info on:
House Party Essentials
Creepy Chicago Tours