Thrift stores offer an array of Halloween costumes

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published October 19, 2016

 A Halloween display features Halloween costume ideas for kids at the store.

A Halloween display features Halloween costume ideas for kids at the store.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


METRO DETROIT — Nothing frightens some people more than wearing used clothing. 

But for metro Detroiters like Holly Evenson, 32, of Novi, retail clothing Halloween costume prices give her the chills — so she buys secondhand.

From giraffe baby costumes to toddler-sized fairy outfits, the mom of 2-year-old Natalie and 5-year-old Melanie learned early on that it’s smart to go secondhand.

“I found out about secondhand children’s clothing stores (when I was) pregnant with my first daughter … from a girlfriend of mine,” Evenson said, adding that the secondhand purchases are also great for seasonal wardrobe changes. “They grow so fast over the years.”

Evenson is not alone when it comes to purchasing cheaper Halloween items. 

According to the National Retail Federation, 47 percent of shoppers will go to discount stores for their Halloween finds this year. Overall, consumers plan to spend $3.1 billion on costumes and will spend an average of $82.93 on Halloween this year — an increase from $74.34 spent last year, according to the NRF.

Judy Hunt, of Chesterfield Township, makes her money stretch by purchasing secondhand Halloween decorations and costumes.

On Oct. 11, Hunt was at the Salvation Army Thrift Store at 34150 S. Gratiot Ave. in Clinton Township perusing fall and Halloween decorations.

“So long as they are not broken or (have) missing pieces, they are just as good as the day you buy them from a regular store,” the grandmother said, adding that she has purchased Halloween goodie bags and costumes for her grandson previously. “I love coming here for all different kinds of things, including Christmas and Halloween (items).”

At the store that day, Jacqulynn Idzior, director of operations for the Southeast Michigan Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center, said a lot of customers will make their own Halloween costumes out of Salvation Army clothing. People may buy sheets for a toga, or boots and a hat for a Western look.

Idzior also said that there are about 100 actual costumes at the store, but Halloween inventory varies at the 36 Salvation Army thrift stores in the southeast region. “Donations come in all year round,” she said.

Evenson said she has previously spent $5 on costumes, where one could typically spend upward of $30 on costumes at retail stores.

“I think you should definitely go secondhand first,” she said.

Evenson said that her daughters will be a bluebird and Batman for Halloween. 

Idzior said Salvation Army purchases support the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers in Detroit for men and women.

The free 180-day rehabilitation work-therapy program helps people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

“They will work in the stores, warehouses,” she said. “They also have addiction counseling, spiritual counseling.”

Salvation Army employee Keith Brown, of Detroit, said that if it wasn’t for working at that store for the past seven years, he would be selling drugs.

He also said he is “living proof” that the program works.

“It did me justice,” he said of escaping the streets and being in and out of jail.

Grace Centers of Hope, a Pontiac-based homeless shelter, operates four thrift stores — in Warren, Waterford, Sterling Heights and Oak Park. Proceeds from the stores support programs for men, women and children.  

Melissa Rodriguez, Grace Centers of Hope director of donor relations, said that when she was a child, Halloween costumes essentially consisted of a plastic mask.

“My mom would go to the grocery store and buy a couple Halloween plastic masks,” she said. “Rather than purchasing Halloween costumes, we’ve bought flannel shirts and jeans and stuffed them with hay for scarecrows. We pulled together things that might be unusual. Things that you would find at a thrift store.”

Rodriguez said the spirit of buying, and making, creative Halloween costumes is still alive decades later.

“I’ve taken my kids to the thrift stores over the years,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought (clothing with) tags still on them.”

Lauren Wallen, marketing manager of stores for Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, said Halloween is their Christmas.

“At Goodwill, Halloween is one of the biggest holidays for us because so many shoppers choose to shop resale for their costume and décor needs,” she said, adding that sales tend to be higher in October.

Wallen said the stores typically start putting out Halloween merchandise at the end of September following their Goodwill Fall and Halloween Fashion Show.

There are six stores in the greater Detroit area — Commerce Township, Dearborn, Canton, Livonia, Ypsilanti and Woodhaven.

“A large majority of our customers purchase individual clothing pieces to create unique, one-of-a-kind costumes,” she said.

“The trend right now is DIY costumes, (and) both young people and parents of young children tend to be following suit,” she said.