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Undead on the rise this Halloween

Zombie costumes shambling off shops’ shelves

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
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Madison Popolizio, right, and Rachel Watson, both 15 and from Niskayuna, take cellphone photos while trying on masks at The Costumer in Colonie on Sunday.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Madison Popolizio, right, and Rachel Watson, both 15 and from Niskayuna, take cellphone photos while trying on masks at The Costumer in Colonie on Sunday.

— Be prepared: It looks like the zombie apocalypse could begin at any time.

Zombie attire is to die for at local costume shops this October, and employees say the undead are sure to rule on Halloween.

Halloween Hall in Ballston has a rack full of custom zombie-wear — tattered three-piece suits with patches of moss clinging to them, battered prom dresses and housecoats that look like they were dragged out of a dump. There’s a whole wall of accessories to round out the look, ranging from silicone gashes held together with safety pins to dangling eyeballs to glow-in-the-dark maggots.

The “Get Your Zombie On” kit, which comes complete with peel-and-stick wounds, a creepy strap-on eye mask, makeup and fake blood, can take a zombie wannabe from human to undead in 20 minutes.

Those who long for instant gratification will favor a simple zombie mask. New this year at The Costumer in Colonie are Ani-Motion masks that clamp around your face. Open your mouth and the drooling, bloody, rotten-toothed zombie mouth on the mask opens, too.

Although zombies are ahead in the costume poll so far this year, President Barack Obama and his rival, Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, are also in the running. Eric Zenner, vice president of operations at The Costumer, is confident he’ll be able to predict the winner of this year’s election by the number of masks sold in his store.

“A couple of years ago it held true,” he insisted. “We sold more Obama masks.”

So far this election season, Obama mask sales are in the lead, he revealed.

Remarks made by Romney during the Oct. 3 presidential debate have triggered an avian phenomenon at The Costumer: Big Bird costumes have been flying off the shelves.

During the debate, Romney insisted that he loves the goofy, yellow Sesame Street character, but he would still slash funding to PBS if it were necessary to borrow money from China to fund the station.

Within the past week, politically minded costume-wearers snapped up every single one of the dozen $70 Big-Bird get-ups The Costumer had in stock.

“I can’t even get them now,” Zenner said. “We have the other Sesame Street characters, but nobody wants them.”

There are, however, plenty of Angry Birds costumes out there. YouTube favorites Annoying Orange, Annoying Apple and Annoying Pear have also shown up in costume form.

Retro favorites are popular this year, too.

“They’ve started coming out with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, ThunderCats — things adults remember,” Zenner said.

The Pirates of the Caribbean movies have hoisted another old favorite — pirate costumes — to new heights.

“I owe a lot to Johnny Depp because he just made this all fun again. Before it was ho-hum, and now just anything goes,” said Lois Myers, owner of Halloween Hall, as she offered up a pirate hat with dangling Captain Jack Sparrow-style dreadlocks.

Also selling well at Halloween Hall are steampunk costumes.

“It’s kind of like Victorian time frame with a science-fiction twist on it,” Myers explained.

The more masculine version of the look includes pieces like aviator goggles, top hats and airship pants, while ladies are favoring medieval-looking gowns, fishnet stockings, corsets and lacy tops.

Fishnet stockings are also selling well as an accessory to the sexier line of costumes kept behind a cordoned-off counter at The Costumer.

“These have been very popular for the past five, six, seven, eight years, and they’re growing in styles … whether it be Dorothy or nuns, witches, sailors, nurses, cowgirls, Lady Gaga,” Zenner said.

By far the most popular in the naughty costume category are the nurse and French maid uniforms, he noted.

The college crowd often goes for the more risqué looks, but Zenner said the big kids are also fond of dressing up as a beer keg, superhero Beer Man or one of the Teletubbies.

“Believe it or not, college kids go crazy over them,” he said of the brightly colored PBS stars who appear on a show targeted at preschoolers.

Preschoolers and the elementary school set often prefer classic Halloween characters. Witch, skeleton and princess costumes always sell well, Myers said. Characters from popular media, like Super Mario of video game fame, and DracuLaura, the vegan vampire from the Monster High book series, also rate highly.

Although the busiest days of the Halloween shopping season are still looming, costume stores were bustling Monday, and Zenner said customers are treating themselves to plenty.

“Halloween is the one time of the year when people can dress up and just do what they want for a day,” he said. “They can get away from the economy, they can get away from all of the political kind of stuff that’s going on, and they can just be somebody else, and we’ve found that people are willing to spend a little bit of money when it comes to that.”

 
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