Your guide to vintage Halloween costume shopping in Vancouver

Make your Halloween costume memorable—and inexpensive—with these vintage ideas.

Five Halloween costume ideas to inspire you, plus five thrift stores in Vancouver where you can pick up the goods you need


Some think zombies and ghouls are scary, but nothing puts an icy claw of terror around my heart like turning up at a Halloween party where 20 and 30-somethings are dressed as kittens, bunnies, nurses, pirates, sports stars and presidents.


It is possible to make a fashion faux pas on Halloween, mainly by donning one of these tired get-ups. These costumes are duds—like getting miscellaneous, wrapped hard candy in your treat bag when you’d rather have a Snickers. If I spot a set of kitty ears, I’m on to the next party faster than you can say, “Beer pong.”


Here are five Halloween costume ideas to inspire you to think outside the box, as well as five thrift stores around Vancouver where you can pick up the goods you need.


Five Halloween costume themes to inspire you

1990s theme

I’m thinking Angela Chase, the precocious protagonist with the red bob from the short-lived hit My So Called Life. You can’t go wrong with a baby doll dress or a maxi skirt with Docs, plus a Jansport backpack. This is basically the young version of the 1990s grunge look that’s on-trend now, enabling you to wear bits of your costume as daywear later.


For guys, think Kurt Cobain. You’ll need unwashed hair, a Kermit-green cardigan with a ripped tee or a flannel shirt. Blood shot eyes add a touch of authenticity.


Literary theme

Pay homage to your favourite author this Halloween: pair Sylvia Plath with F. Scott Fitzgerald. (Left image: Flickr / 50sfan)


If you’re doing Sylvia Plath, make a cardboard box into an oven, stick it on your head, punch eyeholes and don a vintage dress circa 1950. If you pick F. Scott Fitzgerald, get a baggy suit with short trousers. Your socks should show in true 1920s-style. Finish with a skinny square-end tie. Be sure to slur, and try to bring a possessive date.


Alter egos theme

Diva at The Met Lunch

Alter egos like Lady Gaga’s Jo Calderone or David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust are the perfect costumes. (Image: Flickr / Beacon Radio, Flickr / mortalcoil)


Musicians love alter egos. Bowie had Ziggy Stardust. Katy Perry has 13-year old Katy Beth Perry from “Last Friday Night,” who comes with headgear and thick glasses. Lady Gaga is the reigning champion of WTF costumes and her male alter ego Jo Calderone is the pinnacle of the Gaga wardrobe evolution. Skip that waxing appointment. Vaseline your locks into a greasy pompadour. Then pair a trim, black or navy vintage men’s suit jacket with a white t-shirt and slim trousers. Finish it off by tucking a ciggie behind one ear.


Dictators theme

Certain dictators are known for signature pieces, making this an easy costume to put together.


Yes, I ruled out presidents. But dictators are fair game. Nothing says Halloween like Kim Jong-Il. You’ll need a drab, long-sleeved, polyester jacket with a zipper. Other essentials include a faux fur hat with earflaps and some 1980s sunglasses. Once in costume, all you need to do is look at things. Second choice: Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko for his trademark leopard skin hat.


Occupy Wall Street theme

Combine a Halloween classic with a current and topical issue to make a statement with your costume. (Image: Flickr / David Shankbone)


Have you taken notice of the protestors’ costumes? There are a multitude of literal and figurative ways to embody “Corporate Greed” or “The Death of the American Dream.” Go for a Wall Street zombie: deathly make-up with a 1980s power suit—a pencil skirt and pumps, with cash spilling from your purse. Alternatively, dress as a sickly Don Draper holding “Mortgage Denied” paperwork.


The five best thrift stores for costume shopping

Often large chains like Value Village are picked through and lack statement-making vintage. The boutiques listed below are guaranteed to have distinctive looks from a wide range of eras, so you can one-stop-shop.


  1. Downtown/Yaletown: Retro Rock Vintage Clothing, 590 Davie Street
  2. Gastown: Community Thrift and Vintage, 41 West Cordova Street
  3. Mount Pleasant: F as in Frank, 2425 Main Street
  4. Kitsilano: Salvation Army, 1906 West 4th Avenue
  5. Commercial Drive: Mintage, 1714 Commercial Drive

Note: The Kits Salvation Army has a special vintage section.