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Shop Talk: Pacific Northwest Costume

Shop Talk: Pacific Northwest Costume
Spotlight On: Redmond, Wash.

Learning and understanding the value of community
 
Sherrill Taylor and Annetta Knight moved to the same Washington neighborhood in the late 1970s. The two became neighbors and formed a bond that turned into a partnership.

Taylor says it wasn’t by chance — she believes it was fate.

The neighbor’s partnership withstood more than 30 years of service to the costume industry. It only ended when Knight retired in 2012, but Taylor says Pacific Northwest Costume is still thriving under her surviving ownership.

During the shop’s first year in business, Taylor said her and Knight collectively constructed more than 300 costumes for the rental department. Today, the store is much more.
 
“We have grown from a mostly rental store to a large retail and rental one-stop costume shop,” Taylor said.
 
Pacific Northwest Costume has it all and has success, which may seem like an overwhelming task in an era of big box stores, but with Knight’s previous costume experience and Taylor’s retail experience backed by a degree in illustration/design from California State University, the business has taken the Redmond, Wash., area by storm.

A Sense of Community
What helps a business thrive? Loyal customers. What helps a business prosper?  Dedicated customers. Sherrill Taylor is very familiar with both. Pacific Northwest Costume has changed locations three times, while always staying in Redmond, but Taylor said the store has maintained a dedicated following of schools, theaters and businesses.

“We have a great love for our local community, and I do believe it’s reciprocated,” Taylor said. “I have adults bring their children to the shop who recall with fondness their experiences of shopping here in their youth.”

Taylor says patrons often express gratitude saying, “I’m so glad you’re here,”  “Please don’t ever leave” and “I don’t know what we’d do without you” as they enter the store or leave after a purchase.

Redmond is a heavily populated area, so creating a small hometown feel is key. Shop owners and staff members must get to know their customers and listen intently to their opinions. The store is conveniently located in a strip mall three blocks north of downtown and houses nearly 2,000 square feet of products.

“The space is jam-packed with items often hanging from the ceiling and creatively displayed throughout every possible inch of space,” Taylor said.

Pacific Northwest Costume supports a children’s costume wall, adult costume wall, a wig wall, masquerade mask wall, themed sections designated to today’s most desired costumes and items used to complete the look. The shop is home to pirate garb, Greek and Roman appeal, superhero costumes, ’70s and ’80s wear, theatrical makeup, hats, corsets, wings, tights, beards and mustaches and much, much more. You name it and Pacific Northwest Costume has it on hand.

“We have specialized in what might be harder to find in big box stores and are often more reasonably priced than the temporary ‘Halloween Super Stores’ that seem to pop up each year and the internet costume suppliers,” she said.

But that’s not all. If the shop lacks what you’re looking for, Taylor said she’ll send you in the right direction, order it for you or build it for you from scratch. She’s made a “Princess Bride” wedding dress, so the possibilities are endless.

“I am fortunate to help people dress for events they are excited to attend and help their children become the character of their book report or a wax museum,” she said. Creating a desired look pays off for Taylor in more ways than one. She makes a profit, sees a smile of gratitude and learns along the way.

“I always ask these young people what they found interesting about the person of their report or what they can teach mea that I may not know,” she said. “Over the years I have become more educated and enlightened by the future generations.”
 
Changing Trends
Pacific Northwest Costume’s following has stayed relatively the same over the past 30 years, but costume trends have been anything but stagnate.

“The costume industry has changed greatly from simple, reasonably priced packaged costumes for adults and children to lavish, highly embellished, very costly costumes,” Taylor said.

Where have the changes been made?  The biggest change, she noted, is the introduction of the sexy line of women’s costumes. Taylor said this trend has basically taken over the past 10 years. Sexy costumes are so popular that Taylor said parents are beginning to comment on the lack of “conservative wear for their young daughters.” To offset the trend, Pacific Northwest Costume adds petticoats and sews lace trim on the bottom of some their sexy costumes to make them more appropriate for teens and to help moms and dads approve.

Pop culture has taken its toll on the costume industry, too.

“We’ve watched the ebb and flow in the popularity of the Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers and superheroes over the past 30 years,” Taylor said. “These trends are often affected by what movie releases happen during the course of the year.”

She noted that television shows, like “Downton Abbey” for instance, have brought romance back into the industry, and period clothing is making a revival. And while sexy costumes have entered the mix, some trends have come to a standstill.

“Over-the-head masks have lost popularity and given way to more sophisticated, latex foam appliances,” Taylor said.

Things come and go, particularly in the costume industry, but Taylor says one trend has gained popularity and may be here to stay.

“The one trend that has stayed and grown the past five years is the Steampunk movement,” she said. “So much so that Elope, Franco, Rubie’s Costume Co. and many other suppliers in the industry have created lines of merchandise specifically meet the needs of those who attend Steampunk Conventions.”

Sherrill Taylor has seen it all over the past 30-plus years: costume changes, business development, changing trends and a customer’s smile. She’s done it all, too: created costumes, stocked a large costume shop and maintained a positive relationship with those around her. But most importantly, she learned a very valuable lesson along the way — greet those who enter your store with a smile.
 
By Courtney Culey
Digital Engagement Editor

Originally posted Monday, Sep. 23, 2013

Tags: pacific northwest costume, shop talk