Fantasy Costumes Headquarters may never compete with Disney World, but it's a block-long wonderland packed with everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. The sublime includes Mardi Gras ensembles with brilliantly hued sequined and feathered masks; faux-jewel-encrusted velvet Renaissance costumes for bride, groom, and attendants; and a black-and-white Ascot outfit like the one worn by Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. As for the ridiculous, this is the place to find lamp-shade hats, gorilla suits, and gag items.
Fantasy Costumes Headquarters is where Dennis Rodman hung out before the Bulls died. It's where Diana Ross orders her wigs and Elvis impersonators get new costumes to replace sweat-rotted ruins. (The store dry-cleans but it can't work miracles.) If you're just looking to spice up your everyday wardrobe, case the cool collection of vintage eyeglasses. There's also a new line of bun-revealing clothing, in, as with everything in the store, a complete range of sizes. What they don't have can be made to order.
Depending on your point of view, the store is either Halloween heaven or Halloween hell. It stocks 2,000 costumes and 3,000 masks and tons of theatrical makeup. Novelty items include a trick-or-treat bag that looks like a hand on a stick, a Clinton mask with lipstick smears and a tongue that hangs out, and a White House intern set with knee pads, condom, toothpick, breath mint, wet nap, and whistle. The 600 styles of children's costumes include aliens, Teletubbies, superheroes, and Dr. Seuss favorites. Garments in the rest of the store can be rented, but kids' costumes must be bought. Prices range from $13 to $39.
There are plenty of indoor-party items, but the real thrill lies in terrifying the neighborhood with a life-size electric chair, Freddy Krueger and Frankenstein heads that look like they're coming out of the wall, and a graveyard character who actually vomits--a unique way to cut down candy consumption by tiny trick-or-treaters. All are on display in the store's scary Halloween graveyard.
Custom Wigs Ltd. has its own section. It's where the American Cancer Society sends chemotherapy patients; hairdresser John Lanzendorf regularly styles the wigs for customers. More than 30,000 are available, along with hairpieces, extensions, toupees, beards, and mustaches. Both synthetic and human hair can be had in every imaginable color--including gray. Interestingly enough, the synthetics look the most natural.
The store also has complete outfits for theme parties, including 50s poodle skirts and harlequin glasses and 60s and 70s dresses and go-go boots. There's the inevitable Trekkies trove, and of course all the costumes, accessories, light sabers, and cash-cow gimmicks from The Phantom Menace. Austin Powers fans won't be disappointed either. The store is loaded with blue velour jackets, ascots--even fake hairy chests. Flapper and gangster getups always do well. For some reason, people also like to dress as bellboys--actually I just thought of a reason, but I don't know whether that many folks are into hotel room fantasies.
Fantasy Costumes Headquarters, 4065 N. Milwaukee, is open 9:30 to 8 Monday and Thursday; 9:30 to 6 Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday; and 11 to 5 Sunday. For more information call 773-777-0222. --Jody Stern
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Kim Knight.