The Realities Of Working In A Fancy Dress Shop Over Halloween
The Debrief: No, you're crazy idea to be a mime isn't that unique. And yes, everyone else in this queue is also 'just after a bit of white face paint'
Last year, Becca, 26, worked in a fancy dress shop over Halloween on a tempo basis. Actually, not just a fancy dress shop, THE fancy dress shop: Angels on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue. We spoke to her about bad-taste costumes, badly behaved customers, and the sheer amount of people attempting to buy white face paint on October 31st.
1. You get to wear cool costumes (obviously)
As a temp you get a choice of a certain number of costumes and, if you go back again the next year, you get slightly better ones. The year I worked there, they were trying to promote a twisted fairytale theme. Teeny tiny dresses – like, I’m Alice in Wonderland but, oh, I’m also slutty – and these amazing skeleton catsuit. I loved that! The guys could dress up in skeleton outfits or as vampires or there were these crazy, dark Mad Hatter characters, too. They had a quite a lot more choice, but the nice thing was that, if you didn’t fancy wearing teeny tiny Alice dresses, the girls could wear the boys clothes. One of the girls I worked with dressed in scrubs and made them all gross.
2. The customers can be fascinating
In the more upmarket fancy dress places, you can get people from all over the world with money to spend. One guy came in with loads of bouncers and bodyguards – it was my sale, and just before it got too busy, so we went through the catalogue, and he wanted pretty much two of every costume we had. Then, on the main floor, with all the accessories and bits and bobs, he just said, ‘Yes two of everything, please.’ It was my job for the next two days to go through it all, and he was really nice – he saw us as business partners. He’d get his people to buy me lunch, and share his favourite juice from Pret with me. The sale was over £20,000.
3. The customers can also be upset
Sometimes people would get really frustrated because the queue was too long. In the lead-up to Halloween we’d have a 200-plus queue that would start right down the road and snake around the store. I’d tell people to get in the queue and just pick stuff up as they passed it – they’d be like, ‘I’m only after some white paint.’ But the thing is, everyone is only after some white paint. At the point just before Halloween, hardly anyone is after a full outfit, they just want little bits. Another awful time is afterwards, in the returns section. You’d have to check the costume and be like, ‘I’m really sorry you’ve obviously worn this. I can’t take it back.’ People would be rude. An American girl told me she hated the British. Like, what?!
4. You get to help people
One of the best parts is getting to help people with their outfits – they tend to be nicer than other shops (apart from when complaining about the queue) because they have a vague idea of what they want to be, and genuinely need your help to make it happen. It means that, no matter how tired you are, you need to be on board, being creative, and having fun. Someone says, ‘Well my little girl wants to go as this,’ and if you don’t quite have that costume, then you have to think on your feet and suggest other options or come up with cool make-up ideas for how they can achieve the right effect. It’s creative, and a lot of fun – when you’re not falling asleep.
5. There are rarely any truly unique costumes
It’s so funny when people come up to you and think they have this crazy new idea. They’ll ask it as if it’s a question, and you probably don’t stock it because it’s so mad – but it’s always such a run-of-the-mill costume idea. They’ll be like, ‘Do you have anything... for a... mime?’ And you have to be really enthusiastic and respond with, ‘Oh wow! That’s really amazing!’ while in your head knowing you’ve had four mimes that day. White face paint, blood, film and TV-based costumes are all really popular. Last year it was all about Breaking Bad, and there were a lot of Chuckie dolls.
6. Some people are gross
The weirdest requests I got was for Ebola victims. It was when the Ebola outbreak was just taking hold and it was like, ‘Really? Are we really sure about this guys?’ And they’d excitedly tell me it was for a bad-taste night and I still would say, ‘YES BUT REALLY?’ I mean, people are really awful.
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