Girl Power!

Strong female characters all the rage in costume industry

By Zeke Jennings |

Girl power — a term made famous by the Spice Girls nearly 20 years ago — is not only alive and well; it’s stronger than ever, especially in the costume industry.

Costume retailers are already prepping for Halloween 2016. Preparation may include attending shows like the Halloween & Party Expo in New Orleans that was held in late January, where distributors had the girl power theme on full display. Empowering female costumes for all age groups were plentiful, including the likes of Supergirl and Harley Quinn.

Dreamgirl International’s HPE booth had a massive billboard of its Harley Quinn getup. The DC Comics character was the Internet’s most searched costume of 2015, according to Google.

“In creating this season’s line, we looked to pop culture, music, movies and videos,” said Donna Petracca, costumer designer/design director of Costumers at Dreamgirl International. “What’s really wonderful and happening that in movies women are now the heroes. They’re the badasses. They’re the ones saving the day, which we love.”

Howard Beige of Rubie’s Costume Co., one of the biggest players in the business, spoke about the trend during Rubie’s annual VIP event in Las Vegas in January. Beige said the girl power movement really took steam in 2015 and will be even bigger this year.

“It started with things like Rey from Star Wars. You’re about to see it with Wonder Woman as she’s seen in the new ‘Batman v Superman’ film,” Beige said. “Mom, at this point, wants to dress her girl in a much stronger character and not as much what we’ve seen in the past, which was more of a pretty character, things like pixies and princesses. So you’re going to see less of that and much more of stronger girl characters. Much stronger characters that aren’t waiting around to be rescued, but are doing the rescuing. That’s going to be one of the hottest trends in Halloween for years to come.”

Another theme that will remain big in 2016 is accessories. Costume-buyers will be on the lookout to add that little something extra to make their getup stand out. Party & Paper Retailer’s annual costume survey showed that weapon accessories were big sellers last fall, and with female heroines trending up, that will likely be the case again this year.

For the patrons who come into your store looking to build from scratch, basic white and black robes are great ways to get started, noted veteran costume designer Barbara Gavlick of Costumes by Barbara.

“I have been in the costume business, renting and selling, for over 30 years,” Gavlick said. “I have seen the trends change over the years, but some costumes remain constant — a plain black or white robe can be accessorized to make a variety of costumes.”

Among the examples Gavlick offered a hat, cape and broom with a black robe to create a witch costume, an always-popular choice, or add an apron, collar and mob cap with a black robe for a classic Victorian maid ensemble. 

Originally posted Wednesday, Mar. 9, 2016

Tags: costumes