Low demand costume hire this year | New
SOUTH PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP – As a costume designer, this is the spookiest Halloween Jan Mitcheltree has ever seen.
“Normally I’ve already rented hundreds of costumes,” Mitcheltree said Wednesday. “Right now, I only have 21 rentals.”
It’s not a supply chain disruption – she has 2,000 suits on hand.
Mitcheltree opened the business in 1984 from its home in Sharpsville and now operates out of its new home in South Pymatuning Township.
It’s the worst Halloween ever for his company, Mitcheltree said, except for the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago that put a stop to parties and many treat events. She considers this an aberration.
“I did better last year and expected a very good increase in business this year,” she said.
Mitcheltree attributes the nose drop in rentals to two trends – cheap suits sold by seasonal stores and the internet.
“The costumes here are so much better made than what you can get in the store,” she said. “And you can try them on here to make sure they fit you. You can’t do that when buying on the internet or at most discount stores.”
One feature she offers are plus size costumes.
“I do a lot of rentals for taller people,” Mitcheltree said.
Halloween has always been popular with kids who usually like to wear a costume to school for a day and do tricks or treats around their neighborhood.
But the adults fell in love with the holidays. It offers them a rare chance to live out their fantasies by donning costumes of real or imaginary characters.
“Flappers are popular for adult women, as well as Cleopatra costumes,” Mitcheltree said.
Michael Meyers’ character from the “Halloween” slasher movie series has also been a high-demand costume.
Assorted characters including pirates and damsels in distress are available.
Although it has a good selection for children, Mitcheltree has focused on costumes for adults. She said it was hard to compete with the super cheap kids’ outfits sold at discount stores.
Costume rentals for kids are as low as $10.
Over the years, adult Halloween costume trends have undergone a drastic change.
“People used to dress in work clothes,” Mitcheltree said. “Very few do now.”
Now 76, Mitcheltree rarely sews suits from scratch. She buys outfits from professional costume designers at trade shows.
High-end adult costumes she calls “mini-mascots” that include a panda, teddy bear and bull frog have a $45 rental fee. Others, like a stylish Elvis outfit, cost $35.
For all rentals, Mitcheltree charges a $20 deposit, which is refunded when the costumes are returned. The costumes must be returned the day after their rental.
“I hope the weekend Halloween parties will attract people,” she said.