Video by Dillon Thomas
Some choose the costume-in-a-bag option for Halloween, others however go searching in thrift and consignment stores for a cheaper and more hip option.
Whether looking to support the community, be environmentally-friendly, or find that authentic vintage costume, Old Town is home to Eco-thrift, Brand Spanking Used, and Wear It Again, Sam.
Wear It Again, Sam, a little nook located in the heart of Old Town, specializes in everything vintage – clothing, accessories and costumes.
Their costumes range from $40 to $100 for an overnight rental and include authentic vintage costumes that go all the way back to the 1920s. You can find flapper dresses, Elvis suits, and full Victorian gowns.
“Tour de Fat and Halloween are like our Christmas. It gets crazy in here,” said Kim Sewald, who is celebrating her 11th Halloween while working at Wear It Again, Sam.
Other than Halloween, customers come in for theatre productions, Renaissance weddings and fairs, or the odd themed Greek Life party.
Wear It Again, Sam only takes the best of the best of vintage clothing and has a certain criteria that sellers must meet.
“It has to be amazing,” Sewald said with gusto. “We turn a lot of stuff away if it doesn’t meet our criteria – couture vintage, really good condition, mostly things with labels.”
There are a lot of golden finds in the shop, and one flapper dress was sold to the Guggenheim museum in New York in 2010. Vintage thrifting and consignment has become more accessible because of the shift to the online world of Etsy, eBay, and Craigslist.
“People are willing to pay more for stuff because it’s out there,” Sewald said. “It’s hard to be a buyer of vintage clothes, because everyone is buying vintage. To get what it’s worth is very hard.”
Much of their merchandise is collected from estate sales and old women cleaning out their closets, according to Sewald.
“I went to a old lady’s house who died and she had dead dogs in the fridge. She was a show-dog shower,” Sewald said. “She had amazing clothes.”
Sewald noted that not everyone understands the vintage mentality and frequently will have young people come into the shop saying, “‘Oh, that’s old. I’m not gonna wear something old.’”
“It breaks my little heart,” Sewald said.
Tourists, however, recognize the good deals when they stop in. Compared to vintage stores in New York or Los Angeles, Wear It Again, Sam’s prices are a steal.
Across the street on the other side of College Avenue, one can make their own costume from Brand Spanking Used, a boutique-style thrift store which has been around since 2009.
Brand Spanking Used is a donation-based store which works closely with Ram Strength, a local company that helps cancer patients with their basic needs. People that come to donate will get a tax-deductible slip for everything brought in.
According to Jessie Donaldson, co-owner of the store, October is the biggest month of sales, with August following close behind because of move-in month, along with the costume-themed bicycle ride Tour De Fat.
College students also frequent the thrift shop for themed-parties on the weekend.
“They come here every Friday to buy their Bill Cosby sweaters and their golf stuff for their Tiger Woods parties,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson claims little competition when it comes to thrift stores in Fort Collins, because each one is so unique.
“The more the merrier, I don’t like to think of it like a competition,” Donaldson said. “Most people who thrift, shop every thrift store. You might get a pair of overalls here, and a pair of great boots at the next shop.”
Eco-thrift owner Tony Cooper does not think of thrift or consignment stores in Fort Collins as a rivalry either.
“The metaphor I like to use is that all the thrift stores are like ships loading on an ocean of abundance. And we’re going to fight over the water,” Cooper said. “Doesn’t make much sense to me.”
Eco-thrift, which is based on a model of sustainability and zero waste, has been around since 2006.
“We’re much more careful about what happens to the donations than other thrift stores because of our zero waste philosophy,” Cooper said.
Eco-thrift takes any and all donations, including any e-waste (computers, TVs, and stereo equipment), metal recycling, used bicycles, and even dogs. Bandit, one of the dogs donated, is there to play with customers while they look around the packed store located on 208 N. Howes St.
“I was looking for a dog, and some hitchhikers came into town and they brought in a 12-month old puppy,” Cooper said.
The store works closely with the Poudre School District run Alternative Cooperative Education (ACE) program which helps young people with developmental disabilities learn to use tools and take apart e-waste.
There are many volunteer opportunities available which one can find on the website, eco-thrift.com.
Tour De Fat, which runs right beside Eco-thrift, listed the store as a costume location on the New Belgium website this year.
“We sold the heck out of costumes for Tour de Fat,” Cooper said. “We were wondering if we were going to have anything left to sell. Some of the Halloween stuff we held back.”
There is still an eclectic arrangement of costumes on sale in front of the shop, where one can compile their own or choose a pre-made costume.
Donaldson appreciates the creativity of the customers that opt to thrift for their costumes.
“Rather than going to Spirit where you buy a whole costume in a bag, it’s so much fun to help customers and watch them put together awesome costumes,” Donaldson said. “And I bet that no one will be dressed up like you.”
Collegian Diversity Beat Reporter Hannah Hemperly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.