If you’re a fan of Victoria’s Langham Court Theatre Costume Loft, we’re about to blow your best-kept secret (know we’re torn about sharing, too). If it’s not on your radar, get ready to thank us.
The loft is Langham’s epic one-stop costume rental shop that’s open to the public. In the run-up to Halloween, you best get there early.
Located on the second floor of the community theatre in Rockland, the loft is part coveted closet, part dreamy dress-up attic and costumers’ workshop. It’s a cozy space jam-packed with racks of costumes organized by era, theme and colour. Feather boas and period hats festoon the shelves, and foxy corsets and graphic neckties spill from the more than 400 prop and costume boxes lining the walls.
“People come to the top of the stairs and say ‘we had no idea this was here,’” says Costume Loft manager Lisa Leighton. “They’re just gobsmacked.”
The evolving collection includes more than 10,000 items acquired through Langham shows and private donation, ranging from complete costumes to era-specific separates, along with a huge array of accessories: shoes, hats, wigs, jewellery, furs, masks and more. Need some snazzy bloomers? Maybe a spare sombrero or British bobby’s helmet? Yep. All here.
Two spunky volunteers—Daphne Massey (aka Captain Jack Sparrow) and Elaine Kilpatrick (aka Oktoberfest babe)—are decked out for my visit. ‘Enthusiastic’ doesn’t do them justice. I’m barely in the door before they’re trading the ‘Arr mateys!’ and clinking beer steins. “Volunteers make the place go,” Lisa tells me. “And they’re the heart and soul of Langham.”
While some costume hunters know exactly what they’re after, most don’t have a clue where to start. That’s where staff jumps in to assist with the options and decision-making (say, deducing whether that mermaid costume is a practical choice for your Cuban salsa party). Like the best personal shoppers, they help to source elusive pieces and pull together authentic head-to-toe looks. Many have theatre experience and know just what’s in all those boxes.
Rental prices are affordable and have remained largely unchanged over the past decade. The standard rental period is three weeks, but at Halloween it’s extended to six weeks (for rentals before October 22 only).
The loft caters to designers and the public and supports Langham’s own productions and other performing arts groups in town. Halloween may be a busy time, but renters borrow duds year-round for all kinds of occasions: holidays, dinner parties, film and TV productions, themed weddings and school shows.
Recent interest in the Downton Abbey series saw a run on the 1920s collections (see our Date with Downton story). Costume work is commissioned in cases where there is significant demand.
Lisa tells me donning a costume has a transformative effect on even the reluctant loft visitors who get roped in by friends. “Everyone comes alive when you get them into a costume. And who doesn’t want to dress up?”
Annual Costume Sale
Langham Court Theatre also hosts a Giant Annual Costume Sale (mark your calendar for July 16, 2017, 10-2pm). It’s the time to scoop up clothes and costumes at rock-bottom prices (and to snag fresh Burning Man gear). The event takes over the entire theatre and early birds are in line by 7 a.m. The feel-good fundraiser supports Langham programming. Sale remainders find their way to charitable partners like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria and local thrift stores.
> Costume Loft hours and contacts
> The Loft closes early (5pm) on October 31, so staff can make the most of the spooky festivities. (We like their style).
> You’ll need a credit card to secure your rental and to follow care instructions before you return your kit. Let’s face it: no one wants to inherit second-hand beer drool or zombie guts.
> Check out Langham Court Theatre’s 2016/2017 season