Halloween costume shopping season is upon us, and instead of opting for a pre-packaged sexy (insert literally anything here) from Amazon, why not look for something a bit more interesting at Toronto’s costume and vintage shops?
According to a 2015 survey from retailmenot.com, the average Canadian spends $52 on their Halloween costume. The demand for an Instagrammable Halloween costume is definitely there – but it seems that Amazon, Spirit Halloween and similar pop-up models are reaping many of the benefits.
Karyn Phan, the owner of Reflections Vintage Antiques & Theatrical Costumes, says that this influx of fast and easy shopping has really hurt independent costume stores in Toronto, and she worries about staying in business.
Halloween is a great opportunity to put cash toward an independent business – so, whether your last minute costume needs a fun accessory or you want to go full-on cosplay, these Toronto costume stores around the city will have just the right thing.
Thunder Thighs Costumes Ltd.
Target customer: The historical junkie
If you’re looking for an extremely specific period piece for your Halloween costume this year, Thunder Thighs has it. The costume house was started over 40 years by talented Toronto seamstress Lynda Kemp. Today, the family business in the heart of Leslieville is run by her son, Doane.
The first floor is home to endless racks of historical menswear, including authentic military and navy uniforms. The second floor features all women’s wear, organized by decade, and would be the perfect spot for that dead Victorian bride look.
Thunder Thighs is well known in the film and TV industry, but it’s a little-known secret that anyone can come and rent these one-of-a-kind costumes for a reasonable price.
16 Busy, at Logan, 416-462-0621, thunderthighscostumes.com
Reflections Vintage, Antiques & Theatrical Costumes
Target customer: The treasure hunter
This east end spot is a family business run by father and daughter Dominic Troisi and Karyn Phan. Troisi has worked in vintage all his life and the two opened Reflections together 13 years ago. The small store is crammed with all sorts of vintage goodies but they specialize in theatrical costumes.
During Halloween, their main goal is affordability for all, especially for low-income families in the surrounding neighbourhoods. Bargain bins can be found out front and they also have a mega-sale where almost everything is half price during October. Year-round, they also offer a private shopping option in their storage space for transgender people or those in the drag community who would like a more private shopping experience.
839-841 Gerrard East, at Carlaw, 416-944-0333, reflectionsvintagetoronto.com
Theatrix Costume House
Target customer: The theatre kid (or adult)
You can find this iconic costume house tucked away on a side street in Parkdale. Theatrix has been in the costume business in Toronto for over 50 years and the vintage haven houses over 50,000 handmade costumes ranging from Victorian era period wear to Stranger Things season three ‘fits. Their specialty, though, is historical costumes of dress from the 1900-1980s.
Theatrix works closely with many theatre companies in the city and have costumes for virtually every major play. Note that these gorgeous costumes aren’t for purchase – but you can rent them for a few weeks to cover all your Halloween parties and save the money you would have spent on an elaborate costume.
61 Elm Grove, at Queen West, 416-977-3113, theatrixcostumehouse.com
Target customer: The quality connoisseur
Since 1923, Malabar has been making quality handmade costumes for productions in Toronto. The shop is half retail, half rentals. During Halloween season, the retail sections transform into a full-on Halloweentown. The rental section on the other side houses over 40,000 handmade costumes which can be borrowed for Halloween.
Luigi Speca, the primary in-house main tailor, has been working with the company for 65 years and you can see the attention to detail in all his work.
Retail prices vary and rental prices can run anywhere from $45 to $200 including cleaning services. New this year is their pre-assembled costume section, which provides costume ideas for the undecided.
14 McCaul, at Queen West, 416-598-2581, malabar.net
Target Customer: The thrifter
Thrifting and vintage shopping is always a great option for Halloween costume shopping. Though Toronto is a vintage lover’s dream, Tribal Rhythm has a particularly killer Halloween selection. You can walk in without a costume idea, walk out with dozens of new pieces you can mix and match for all your Halloween parties. The best part is, you can also buy pieces to wear outside of Halloween. Tribal Rhythm also ranks on the more affordable side as far as Toronto vintage goes.
248 Queen West, at John, 416-595-5817, tribalrhythmvintage.com
Candy’s Costume Shop
Target customer: The classic party-goer
This costume shop, a staple in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, has been selling costumes for all occasions for 11 years in Toronto. Wigs, masks, costume sets – this place has it all. Candy’s is a more affordable option if you don’t want to break the bank for Halloween. Candy’s also has a great selection of kids and baby costumes (including the cutest onesies ever). This is a great spot if you’re looking for that one piece you need to finish off your costume.
685 Mount Pleasant, at Soudan, 416-487-5794, candyscostumeshop.com