There’s only one thing better than a party—and that's a costume party. It allows you to step into a new self, make mouse ears weirdly sexual and feel like a little kid again because actually being an adult involves spending a lot of time in unexciting clothes. But there’s just one issue. Sometimes your local Salvos or Vinnies doesn’t turn up the goods in terms of completing your superhero costume, or you don’t have the right kind of 1920s flapper-turned-detective gear just lying around at home. So with the clock ticking down and your friends bragging about what they’re going to rock up as, you start to panic.
This, my friends, is where the humble costume shop comes in to save the day. Surprisingly inexpensive, Melbourne has a few absolute gems when it comes to tricking you out in a costume that looks great, fits a theme, and doesn’t require you to explain every five minutes what the hell you’re supposed to be. Hey, we spend enough time telling people what we’re supposed to be in everyday life, right?
Without further ado, here are Melbourne’s 5 best costume shops.
Everyone knows and loves this Gertrude Street costumier. With 10 shiny, sparkly rooms stacked wall-to-wall with costumes, wigs, hats and accessories, it’s been a local institution since it opened in 1979. If you’ve ever wanted to have your own movie-style montage where you twirl in and out of the change-room dressed in everything from Danny Zuko style leathers to Almost Famous era shearling coats, this is the place to do it.
All the staff come from art and design backgrounds, and pride themselves on being able to help customers put together a ‘look’. Better yet, if in the unlikely event you can’t find the kooky costume of your dreams, they take commissions. A basic costume starts at $77 for 3 days and you don’t need to get it cleaned before returning it.
Near Albion Street in Brunswick East, Centre Stage Costumes is guaranteed to have the kickass costume you need to be the attention-grabbing belle of the dress-up ball. From snug-fitting steampunk to Zoolander-inspired merMAN tails, you can get kitted out as Captain Ahab from Moby Dick or Slave Leia from Star Wars. They’ve got a few of those nifty zipper make-up kits for $25 if you want to skip the costume and just go for terrifying the crap out of people, as well as an impressively comprehensive collection of hats and fake moustaches.
Miss Kitty’s Costumes
This cute-as-a-button costume shop is open seven days a week and has an A-Z inventory of fancy-dress fun—everything from Abba to a zebra. The store smells clean and fresh, and the staff are helpful and happy. Because it’s based in St Kilda, there’s a slightly kinky edge to what’s on offer—fancy being a naughty Belle from Beauty & The Beast? You can do that. How about a cutesy Cheshire cat to channel your inner ‘mean girl’? You can do that too. Guys, don’t despair, there’s plenty for you with Buzz Lightyear, Jon Snow, MC Hammer and a full-piece Shamrock suit for St Paddy’s Day available.
The website has the option to buy or hire online, but Miss Kitty’s has an even wider range available in-store than what appears on the website, so make the trip and you won’t regret it.
Masquerade specialises in, unsurprisingly, masquerade masks. However, if you’d rather wear a Disgusted Baby mask or a Freddy Kreuger mask, they have those too. Open since 1971, this emporium of all things weird and wonderful manages to cater to school kids and lazy party-goers alike with a collection of over 20,000 costumes. The staff are experts at helping customers navigate tricky party themes and will provide honest feedback on whether you look better as a Scary Tree or 80s Groupie.
They’ve even got costumes for couples with our pick going to the Two-Man Horse get-up. Accessories are on-hand to complete your look, and basic hire starts at $66 for up to six days.
The Littlest Costume Shop
This itsy-bitsy little costume shop is actually a studio out the back of the owner Mandy’s house and crammed with racks and racks of ready-to-wear and custom-made costumes. With a background in the fancy dress industry, Mandy started the Littlest Costume Shop because it allowed her to hire out elaborate costumes at low prices from her very own home. That means she actually prefers customers to make appointments to try on and hire out outfits on weekends, particularly Sundays. Costumes are pop-culture heavy, with everything from Marie Antoinette to Cyndi Lauper; Michael Jackson to Steve Irwin.
All dressed up with nowhere to go? You can find out anything and everything that's happening in Melbourne right here.
Image credit: Saksham Gangwar