Pasadenans Run a Shop of Little Horrors
Pat Burdy and Susan Dull probably run the only costume store in the country that closed for the Halloween season.
Their shop on Raymond Street in Pasadena, Somewhere in Time, just isn’t big enough to handle the volume of people wanting costumes for Halloween balls and parties, so this year they shut it down for October and opened another store--Somewhere Else in Time.
Located in a warehouse on Holly Street, a few blocks from Burdy and Dull’s first store, Somewhere Else in Time is a Halloween extravaganza.
Aside from hundreds of costumes on display, there’s a simulated graveyard in one corner, complete with headstones, a white picket fence and a hand rising out of the dirt. A coffin made of cardboard sits nearby.
Hanging from the ceiling are a life-size witch on a broom, a silver-colored flying saucer that lights up in front of a Manhattan skyline, and a 30-pound spider entwined in a web of 2,200 feet of fluorescent rope.
The cemetery, coffin, flying saucer and witch, created by prop man Jose Cortes, have been rented out a couple of evenings for Halloween parties.
The primary floor display features three futuristic costumes created by Burdy and Dull’s fashion designers, Cecile Poletti and Getty Miller. Two of those space costumes, Empress Luna and the Grand Master of the Universe, won top prizes at both the Assistance League’s Halloween ball and the Pasadena Central Improvement Assn.'s Halloween ball.
Susan Dull wore the Empress Luna costume--fashioned of yards of shiny black, silver and magenta material--to the PCIA event and took the grand prize. “The exciting part of the Luna costume was the dry ice that was in the back of the collar,” Dull said. “Just as I got up on stage, it started to make smoke that looked as if it was coming out of the back of my head. It got a lot of oohs and ahhs from the crowd.”
Studied Fashion Design
Poletti, who studied art and fashion design in Paris, her birthplace, and Miller, a Coty award winner, also created a costume for Burdy for the PCIA party.
“I usually won’t go in costume,” said Burdy, 45, who is vice president of the PCIA. “But I had to for this. They whipped me up a wonderful costume. I called it a space age drum majorette.”
Burdy and Dull say they got into the costume business by accident. The two women had worked together several years ago at Nordskog Industries. Then Dull quit to open a boutique.
Five years ago Burdy decided to open a business, too, and started an antique furniture store. She then talked Dull into joining her in the venture.
“Actually the costume business picked me,” Burdy said. “I had no retail experience. The main thing is all the people here who helped me. I didn’t know anything about costumes either. Just furniture. But we bought an estate sale that had a lot of vintage clothing. We were going to get rid of it and then somebody said ‘Why don’t you sell it along with the furniture?’ So we did. For three years, we’ve been doing more costume than furniture. We’re phasing furniture out now. We deal in costume jewelry, clothing and accessories now. We have vintage finery from turn of the century to the ‘60s.”
According to Burdy and Dull, the most popular costumes this Halloween have been futuristic and period dress.
“We have to have the standards, nuns, priests, cowboys, ghosts, animals, witches and Frankenstein,” Burdy said. “But this year has been big for futuristic and space costumes. And period pieces have been very popular. People are going more for unusual costumes this year.
“ ‘Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome’ and ‘Amadeus’ have really influenced people this year,” Burdy continued. “We go to the movies quite a bit to see what’s out there as far as costumes go because they influence what the costumes for the year will be. And this year the music videos have had a real influence too.”
To go with their costumes, customers also may have their hair styled and makeup done by Kitty Abby, a local beauty school student who works with Burdy and Dull.
Burdy and Dull rent and sell commercial costumes, masks, wigs and accessories, but prefer to create their own. They hope eventually to come out with a line of their own costumes, not just for Halloween, but for theme parties, dances and parades. “Anything people need a costume for,” said Dull, 29, a native of Glendale.
The partners have done costumes for videos, for commercials, for the Doo Dah parade, for an opera company and theme parties for corporations. They currently are costuming the Rose Bowl queen and her court for a special appearance at Childrens Hospital. “They are going as storybook characters, Cinderella, Pinocchio, the Mad Hatter,” Burdy said. “We did costumes for last year’s court too.
“Just last week an older couple came in wanting costumes, not for Halloween, but for a party for survivors of the Titanic,” said Burdy. “I figured everyone else would be in extravagant dresses, so I put them in (old-time) bathing suits to be different.”
About 75% of their customers rent their costumes, said Burdy, but a few prefer to have ones specially created by the store’s designers. The average costume rental is $45; the most expensive $200.
“I love to dress people up,” Dull said. “It’s really fun for me. I took one costume class at Pasadena City College after we got into this business, and I am constantly reading fashion books. It’s the joy of my job. As a little girl I spent a lot of time watching old movies and I loved the costumes. That’s what I like now, watching people put on a costume and taking on the persona of it. They become different persons in the costume.”
“Susan is a genius with the costumes,” said Burdy, a transplanted New Yorker who moved to Pasadena about 20 years ago. “I mostly do the management and business side, but Susan can create the magic. Some group came in this week to get costumes for a Halloween party and she talked the five guys into dressing as sheep and the girl as Bo Peep.”
Leather and Feathers
Richard Eastman, 32, who has been in the leather business since he was a teen-ager in San Francisco, joined ranks with Burdy and Dull five months ago and now makes leather and feather masks, leather jewelry and costumes for them.
He met Burdy five years ago when he went to the shop to sell her an antique cane.
“It really is like being a magician,” Eastman said, helping customer Joy Taylor, a beautician from Sierra Madre, into one of his original leather creations modeled from the one Tina Turner wore in “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.”
“And the feather masks, they’re good all year around,” he said. “Some people buy them and put them on the wall as works of art.”
Last week, Burdy and Dull finalized plans to rent larger quarters for their permanent store and will not have to move for Halloween anymore.
“What we’re excited about is expanding,” Burdy said. “For two people who started something and didn’t know what they were doing, we’re doing it. We’ll have a new place on Colorado with 10,000 square feet, so we can stay in one place. The location was a dancewear center for 35 years and now they’re moving to Agoura Hills. We’re going to marry the two businesses here and have dancewear as well as costumes. Create our own costumes and manufacture them and do theme party planning. But we’ll always have Halloween.”