Sometimes a bit of at-home craft and DIY is all you need to knock together something suitable, but other times require a bit more effort. It’s these kinds of occasions that Hardware Lane Costumes in the CBD cater for, boasting a collection of outfits to match any theme.
“We try and have a good collection of things that are really cool and interesting and special,” says owner, Zoe Stuart. “And then things that are like, you know, maybe a bit more accessible. All that kind of stuff.”
Hardware Lane Costumes [HWLC] has been around for 12 years now, although Stuart has only been the owner for three. In that time, she’s played around with the store’s costume collection, adding more contemporary pieces into the mix.
“We’ve got some pieces that are pretty old,” explains Stuart. “We’ve got some Melbourne opera pieces, Melbourne theatre company pieces, so it’s got that background of people who make costumes for theatre and film in Melbourne.”
“I took the collection over three years ago and I’ve been trying to modernise the world of costume here. So, now it’s all about the people, it’s all about service, it’s all about creative ideas for people and trying to solve their problems pretty quickly.”
A Costume Design graduate from the Victorian College of the Arts, Stuart is a self-described costume “duala” who takes immense pride and pleasure in what she does.
“I love looking at someone, like a complete stranger I’ve never met, and looking at their body language and trying to work out what archetype character they could wear to this event,” she explains.
“I think we’re so trapped in our sense of identity being fixed, you know like ‘this is me, this is who I am, I like this and I dislike that’, and then you take that and you put that in a different wrapping, like a costume, a wig, a dress, or like a suit, and yeah, it’s almost like my clients find that there’s other personalities inside of them that they can go out and take out and have a party.”
HWLC go beyond the basics of dress-up gear, offering clients a collection of hand-washed and styled wigs, makeup consultations, and special effort from staff to ensure they’re happy with their costume, even if they’re not a fan of fancy dress.
“Our clients are more like maybe people who work 40 hours a week, trapped in the city, and they’ve never dressed up before. Or they come to me and they’re like ‘I hate dressing up’, and I’m like ‘I’m gonna find the one thing that you’d like’,” laughs Stuart.
“All the staff are like that as well, so they all have a background in [costume] and they love dressing up, and we love helping people have a good time. And we’ve got lots of skills; I’m a seamstress, we’ve got two wig stylists that handwash, and we style all of the wigs to order.”
With October nearing its end, and Halloween looming closer, now is a particularly busy period for the team at HWLC.
“It’s kind of like Christmas, but for Halloween it’s like gothic themed,” says Stuart with a laugh. “We all dress up, so it’s like a big carnival atmosphere. We get some face painting done, do some makeup on some customers on Friday night.”
“We all just really get into it. Like, the shop packs out, we get a security guard and we’re all just, in costumes, going crazy, putting makeup on – it’s super fun.”
If you’re struggling to think of a costume idea for the spooky holiday, then Stuart urges you to come and visit the shop, and place your faith in her trusty hands.
“It’s mostly just about standing around and having a chat with a bunch of people who are really into this to work out what your best idea is,” she says.
“You might as well come and talk to us about it because we basically do it day in and day out – we try and come up with crazy ideas.”