Why rent a costume?

People rent costumes for all sorts of special events, including but not limited to corporate events, theatrical productions, costume parties, birthday parties, holidays and cultural events.

Costume rentals generally fall into the following types.

• Holiday, Halloween and kids costumes. Holiday-themed costumes include Santa and Mrs. Claus, the Easter Bunny, leprechauns, pilgrims or Uncle Sam. You can rent holiday costumes to wear for personal use, holiday parties, parades or other events. Halloween costumes, of course, make up a large segment of the costume rental industry. These costumes come in a variety of popular characters and range in sizes that fit infants all the way to adults. Consider reserving a costume in advance because there may be limited quantity of a particular character you'd like to portray.

• Theatrical costumes. These costumes are rented for longer periods of time and are used in stage productions. They save a lot of money compared to hand-making costumes for an entire cast. Larger costume shops boast inventories from virtually any period in time to add to the realism of the play. You'll also find hats, accessories and other staging props to help accentuate and authenticate the production.

• Mascots. Large animal costumes are available for rental and are regularly used for parades or special appearances by companies, schools or organizations. Some businesses may choose to rent a mascot once or twice a year for special occasions, rather than pay to have one created for them, which can be quite costly.

• Ethnic dress. Costumes and traditional dress worn by different nationalities include pieces such as authentic kimonos, kilts or Native American headdresses that are often worn during cultural festivals or ceremonies.

Most people use costume rental services to save time and money. You simply go to the costume rental service, browse the costumes, try one on and return it when you're done. Specialty costumes are quite expensive and may only be worn one time. Rather than invest a great deal of money, many people choose to rent the costume for the occasion for a fraction of the cost.

Costume Rental Tips

When renting a costume, you want to make sure you have the rental agreement in black and white and understand the expectations to avoid fees. Be sure to check out these elements before checking out that gorilla costume.

• Rental period. Understand how long you are allowed to keep the costume. Find out if there is a time deadline on the day it's due. For example, do you have until the shop closes, or is the costume due by noon?

• Fees. Be clear on what fees the company can assess and for what. If you return the costume late, how much will you be charged? If the costumed is damaged, torn or stained, what is the charge? Is the cleaning fee included in the rental price, or is that added on?

• Damage clause. Each rental service will have its own policy as to what constitutes damage. Learn what your financial responsibility is in the event of damage occurring while the item is in your possession. Be sure you check over the costume very carefully for rips, tears, missing buttons and stains before leaving the store. Just like when you rent a car or moving truck, if you find damage, show it to an employee and have it documented on the rental agreement. If you leave the store with a costume that has damage they haven't accounted for, you will have no way of proving that you were not the one who damaged it and therefore could be charged for it.

• Cleaning. The majority of costume rental services will prefer to launder their own costumes, though some may ask you dry clean it before returning it. Costumes are made from delicate or hard-to-clean fabrics, so often you are explicitly prohibited from trying to clean the costume yourself due to the potential for accidental damage that might occur while cleaning it.

• Make an appointment. Smaller costume rental services likely accept walk-in customers, especially for those renting items such as Halloween costumes. If you need assistance, require a fitting or are going to need alternations, you might need an appointment. This will likely happen if you're renting period or theatrical costumes. Keep in mind that when Halloween approaches, these shops will become very busy and appointments may become necessary. 

• Look for signs of cleaning. Bigger costume stores often have a tag in the garment bag or on the hanger to indicate the costume has been cleaned and checked for damage. If the costume smells bad or has obvious signs of wear, point it out to the sales associate and ask if it has been cleaned recently.

Can a costume rental store make alterations?

Each costume rental store has its own policy on alterations. In many cases, it's okay if a costume doesn't fit perfectly. But, if you're using the costume for a specific purpose where it needs to fit perfectly, such as in a theater stage production, the store may allow you to carefully alter the costume to fit.

Often, costume rental services that specialize in period pieces offer fitting and alteration services or will provide instructions for alterations, such as hand-sewing only, no cutting and no hot gluing. If you need to make alterations, get the policy in writing to ensure you are following their instructions and avoid incurring extra fees. Many costume rental stores don't allow alterations on Halloween costumes.

Always ask about the policy before you make any changes to the appearance of the costume because some rental services may consider even well-done alterations as damage.

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Costume Rental
From Elvis costumes to Santa Claus and everything in between, Cheryl Harmon of Indianapolis' Costumes by Margie talks about the costume rental business.
 
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