"These could be shoes for a witch," suggested nine-year-old Tabitha, holding up a pair of shiny patent pumps with clunky, witch-like buckles and a price tag of $1.40. For Halloween, she's going to be Carabosse, the evil fairy from Sleeping Beauty, and we were at the AMVETS THRIFT STORE at 6101 Georgia Avenue NW looking for suitably evil attire. Carabosse, unfortunately, didn't donate her old clothes to thrift shops, but on our rounds we found a lot of other cheap stuff that could be put together for smashing Halloween costumes.
Amvets, for example, had racks and racks of glittery silver shoes suitable for good fairies and princesses. The average price was 95 cents. Wigs -- lots of them, in every conceivable color and combination of colors -- were $1.45 and up. These could be used to disguise one's telling hair color (especially necessary for redheads), turn a boy into a girl or create instant glamor. A blond wig plus one of the many little girls' long dresses that used to be in style and that Amvets now sells for 95 cents and up equals Little Bo Peep -- just add your own stuffed lamb. Or combine a blond wig with a quilted pink satin bed jacket and you have a juvenile Jean Harlow.
If you child wants a more meaningful, career-oriented constume, consider a uniform. Amvets has racks filled with nurses' uniforms priced at about $2.95. They're not child-size, of course, but the top of the two-piece pants-and-tunic uniform would probably look like a regulation-length dress on a child. There are also Air Force uniform shirts with sergeant's stripes for $1.45, and a Sunoco service station attendant's shirt with "Wayne" embroidered on the pocket for 65 cents. If you really want to splurge, consider a bridal gown -- the costume of what was once considered the only suitable career for women -- at $19.50 and up.
Other parts of costumes we found at Amvets were a child-size black velvet riding hat ($1.95), a Chinese padded jacket ($1.95) and a pair of half-orange and half-black knee socks, perfect costume for your feet if you want to put a pumpkin over your head.
THE VALUE VILLAGE, 4618 14th Street NW, sells men's cotton pajamas at an average price of $1.10. These may not seem fraught with possibilities until you remember that Egyptian street vendors wear this sort of thing all day long. For a more homegrown look, you can pick up shiny Damon Runyon-type suit jackets at Value Village for about $3.95. A dark blue shirt that Sky Masterson would have loved was 95 cents. To complete the outfit, take your choice of light-colored ties for 50 cents and up.
Value Village also had construction-worker hats -- one that said CAT Diesel Power was 35 cents. There were also Army garrison caps (25 cents) and a child-size fringed-suede poncho that would be perfect for a cowgirl for $1.95.
The FAMILY THRIFT SHOP run by the Jewish Council for the Aging at 8233 Fenton Street in Silver Spring is smaller and generally more expensive than Amvets and Value Village, but we found some intriguing ingredients for costumes there. A man's hairpiece was $2; WAVE hats were also $2, and a beautiful pink strapless gown with sequins, perfect for a '50s prom queen or Cinderella, $5.
The GOODWILL THRIFT STORE at 4813 Annapolis Road (Route 450) in Bladensburg is the place to shop for the makings of a Peter Pan costume. A Peter Pan-green velour bathrobe with rakishly flounced collar and cuffs was $4, as was a green velour pair of lounging culottes. A green velour shirt with a hood that would make a complete costume for a child with just a sash and green tights was $2.
Trays full of costume jewelry at 25 cents per jewel and graduation gowns at $4 were also available at Goodwill. A long black dress trimmed in gold -- perfect for the bad queen in Snow White or any other elegant witch -- was $6.
Across the road at the VILLAGE THRIFT STORE (4900) Annapolis Road), used costumes of the genre sold at the five-and-dime were $1.50, but the non-costumes were pregnant with more interesting possibilities. There was a whole rack hung with pink-and-white Baskin & Robbins salespersons coats emblazoned with the "31" insignia for 85 cents each, and you can probably find a used ice-cream scoop in a thrift-shop houseware section to complete the costume. Other makings of costumes included a child-size rabbit stole ($10), a child-size suede cowboy hat ($2), a Panama hat with a striped band ($3.50), and a Marine hat ($2).
Even at the last minute you can find good costume makings in the thrift shops. They're listed under "T" in the Yellow Pages. Be sure to take a child along; you may not recognize witch shoes when you see them.