Bryan Beilke

As the spookiest of nights gets closer, people are scrambling to find the perfect costume – or maybe just a last-minute one. There are more costume shops than usual to choose from in San Luis Obispo this year, and each one has its pros and cons.

The big box Spirit Halloween store on Foothill Boulevard is the biggest and has the most merchandise, but a lot of it is children’s costumes and decorations. While there are a lot of adult costumes, wigs, masks, random props and decorations, there is less variety than some of the other stores.

It has more in terms of pure volume, but has rows of the same theme (like pirates, priests and pimps) instead of different things. It has costumes for every price range, and a few well-placed accessories from here would do in a financial fix. It’s more of a one-stop shop for a family than a college student’s store, but it does boast a few R-rated items like a skull-shaped beer bong and a “tricky dick” costume.

Downtown, The Costume Shop offers the one thing every person looks for in such a store: a fitting room. Packaged costumes, props, accessory pieces and wigs can be tried on before buying them, which also opens up the shopping experience to peer review.

Michelle Perlich, an art professor and owner of the shop, said they purposely order middle-range costumes. Most of the packaged costumes are $30 to $80 and most of the wigs and other accessories are less than $20.

The most popular costumes this year are Spartans a la “300” for men and sailors for women, Perlich said. Pirates have returned for another strong showing this year, she said.

The Costume Shop will be open year-round. It will also cater specifically to college students; its owners want to order merchandise based on theme parties occurring at the time, and may even attempt to coordinate with local fraternities and sororities.

Also downtown is Costume Capers. This place is jam-packed with awesome merchandise and has reasonable prices for costumes, accessories, wigs, assorted jewelry and make-up items.

Shopping there feels like spelunking – weaving through the dimly-lit rows finding stuff you never knew was there. If you need that one random piece to make your costume complete (or want the biggest colored-fishnets collection to choose from), you’ll probably get lucky here.

For those ladies out there who like to be scantily clad, there’s always Fanny Wrappers. Like The Costume Shop and Costume Capers, it’s open year-round. As the name implies, it sells costumes with varying levels of scandalousness and does good business with the college-aged female crowd. For Halloween, they have a good selection of Leg Avenue and other brands that boast short-skirted versions of classic costumes. Who doesn’t want to be a skanky Alice in Wonderland?

The local shops cater more exclusively to their clientele, and it goes to show that you can’t judge a costume shop by its square-footage: bigger isn’t always better. The prices on big brand items were relatively similar from store to store, and prop and accessory item prices varied by quality and size.

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