Backstage Books & Costumes

Theater-arts supply store also does a bustling business year-round in costumes for non-actors, especially at Halloween.
Mon-Sat 11 am-7 pm; Halloween Season: Mon-Fri: 11 am-8 pm
Sat: 12-5 pm
(Capitol Hill)
Eastern Market (Blue and Orange lines)
202-544-5744
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Editorial Review

A fixture on P and 21st streets NW for 20 years, Backstage moved to the southeast part of the city in the spring of 2000. Now two blocks from the Eastern Market, the shop, which originally opened as a resource for area thespians, still fills those needs, stocking theatrical makeup, scripts and books on acting and playwrighting.

But come All Hallow's Eve, the emphasis turns to costumes, masks, wigs, glitter, all kinds of tights and the like. With the recent move to bigger digs, look for an increase in the number of rental costumes as well as additional merchandise like dance shoes, dance clothes and children's costumes.

The goods: Backstage rents costumes (from Titanic coattails to Marie Antoinette), priced from $25 to $150, which are made by manager Sandy Duraes and her staff. An elaborate splurge: Matching king and queen outfits with headgear done up in black velvet and lace and plenty of beadwork go for $150 each, while a floral bodice-hugging number fit for the femme fatale in "Dangerous Liaisons" rents for $95. Don't fret, you won't run into anyone else wearing your costume; all these are one-of-a-kind.

Backstage also sells ready-made packages, which Duraes says are improving all the time. Want to go for old-fashioned Hollywood glamour? A feathered hat with veil, long gloves and cat's-eye glasses all with a leopard print goes for $59.95. You can also adorn yourself with a black Afro wig and get that '70s look. Resent that you have to get dressed up at all? Don a pair of cynic's Groucho Marx glasses. Kids of all ages will love the section of the store (actually a wall) devoted exclusively to wings -- for angels, fairies, insects, or any airborne creature.

The crowd: Buttoned-up government types who loosen up when they don a disguise, college kids from nearby Georgetown.

Tips from Duraes: You're going to a party and haven't a clue what to wear. You can never go wrong with Elvis; a classic vampire is always in as is any character from "The Wizard of Oz." If you're planning on boogeying the night away, you'll have more fun in a '50s outfit than in full Elizabethan regalia.

What I love about this place: It appeals to my inner child. There is more fun stuff (face paint, glitter, fake eyelashes, fishnet tights, cat suits, foam hair, boas in every color) than you can shake a credit card at. What's more, none of them is going to take a big bite out of your wallet.

-- Janet Bennett