September 23, 2014 - 1:36 PM
KAMLOOPS – The first costume Marian Truscott sewed was a Marie Antoinette-inspired dress—she made it out of the old pink curtains hanging in her home.
The dress was the first piece in a collection of over 4,000 costumes. Like Marian, the dress has seen many Halloweens come and go and while it is now torn, faded and frayed, its owner is anything but.
After eight years of owning and operating Pandora's Costume Box, Marian is closing the store to head back to her original start as a professional seamstress and costume designer for theatre companies.
She started sewing after her grandmother taught her how, at the age of five. When she grew up, after trying her hand at several occupations, Marian decided to help out with her local theatre company in Northern B.C.
“I offered to help sew for a production of The King and I in Fort St. John,” Marian says. “I went to the meeting and the person who was the coordinator just handed me the box and said ‘my husband’s being transferred and we’re leaving tomorrow, so here.’”
Later on, Marian was offered the job as wardrobe designer for the Western Canada Theatre company. She and her husband, Kevin, moved to Kamloops.
The original Pandora’s was on an acreage the couple owned. The shop, built into a double wide trailer, was open by appointment. Once Halloween traffic got busier, the store moved temporarily into a rental store space.
“We were sort of the original (Halloween store) pop-up,” she says with a laugh.
Halloween soon became such a busy season that she would ask Kevin to take some time from work to help her in the shop. The two would rent out hundreds of costumes. By the time Halloween day came they would be so tired, the big night would involve grabbing dinner, heading for bed and preparing for the 300 or so loads of costume laundry.
Eventually the store became a permanent fixture on Victoria Street and Marian got to play dress up each day she worked. She would put on a different costume for every shift, which didn’t last for long; many customers would rent whatever she wore right off her back.
The current spate of one-size-fits-all Halloween pop-up stores are squeezing her out, which she says is too bad. Her creations are tailored to fit her customers. She says most of the out-of-the-bag costumes are made out of cheap materials, are ill-fitting and encourage production en masse abroad.
“Marian’s costumes fit real people,” Kevin says.
The costumes within the store range from the traditional Halloween standbys like a witch, vampire and pirate to the stranger assortment which includes a cactus, rat and a bottle of tequila. Of course there are the sexy outfits – Marian’s not sad to see the Playboy bunnies hop away.
The pastel aqua blue Care Bear was always rented by young guys.
“Guaranteed it was going to rent to an 18- to 22-year-old guy,” Marian says.
“They would have a great time because girls would be all around them,” Kevin adds.
Her finger on the pop culture pulse, Marian’s creations feature many well-known characters in movies. Jack Sparrow is the most popular character costume she’s rented. The Dumb-and-Dumber tuxedos are regular rentals – Marian’s heard many partners discuss who gets to wear orange or blue. The Hocus Pocus costume, inspired by Bette Midler’s witch character in the film won’t be sold; Marian’s too proud of her hand-painted snakes on the cape.
The “sale of a lifetime” which started on Sept. 18 was planned to sell most of the stock in the store—a thought Marian said she was sick about.
“I might have a bottle of tequila in the back (during the sale),” she says. “It’s really hard to price the items.”
She added the connection she has to some of the costumes is so strong she wants to throw up when she thinks about getting rid of them. There’s a rack in the middle of the store packed with items Marian won’t part from.
“My assistant Susan said ‘if anyone tries to barter, I’m gonna punch them in the face,’” Marian jokes.
Marian and the customers who rented from her know the costumes have lives and stories to them. She started to laugh when she thought about a young man who rented a gorilla costume and considered it funny to roll down a hill. He landed in a burr bush.
“His mother made him sit for three hours pulling as (many burrs) out of the gorilla costume as possible and then she frog-marched him into the store and made him explain what happened to the costume. He was mortified,” Marian says.
Other times, costumes’ didn't survive Halloween night. Like the Greek goddess who woke up without a dress; Darth Vader got drunk and lost pieces of his outfit all over town; Marie Antoinette came close to ruining her dress made out of Marian's old curtains when she sat on a car seat covered in oil.
While the fun stories remain with Marian, she's now off to help others act out their stories. She’ll outfit local actors and stay more involved on the costume and wardrobe side of theatre.
The shop may be wrapping up, but Marian will always have her “keep racks” and her passion for sewing.
“The average person doesn’t know how to sew on a button... it really is kind of a dying art form. It’s like breathing for me,” Marian says.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014