Racking up the costume changes
DAILY GRIND She gets to dress people up as Cookie Monster, Batman and the Pink Panther every day, but is working at a costume store as much fun as it’s cracked up to be? Reporter Lauren Priestley takes a peek behind the scenes.
When Sophie Gulland left university with a design degree she never thought she would end up working in a costume shop.
The 28-year-old has been the shop assistant at the oldest costume store in New Zealand, Desiree Costume Hire in Penrose, for five years.
The family business is 84 years old and has literally thousands of costumes packed into its circus tent-styled premises.
The most popular costumes include characters like Cookie Monster and Dora the Explorer. Recently 1920s style outfits have become popular since the release of The Great Gatsby film, Miss Gulland says.
New ideas for costumes are never-ending, she says. The outfits are either made instore or purchased from overseas.
new movie or trend – you just can’t keep up.
‘‘People often have an idea that it’s going to be cramped with musty old costumes but we’re always replacing the old with the new. It’s changing so often there’s never an end to it.’’
A large part of her job at the moment is modelling costumes for photos to go on the store’s new website.
The rest of her time is spent helping customers find the perfect party costume.
The St Marys Bay resident worked in retail while studying for her degree and says being a people person is a necessary ‘‘learnt behaviour’’ for the job.
‘‘It’s really creative most of the time. It’s also got a happy vibe. People coming in are usually in a good mood.’’
But it’s not all glitz and glamour for costume store assistants. People’s perceptions about the job are often different to reality, Miss Gulland says.
‘‘There’s the unglamourous side of washing everything – that has to be done constantly.
‘‘Every day we have people saying ‘it must be so fun working here’ but they forget it’s still a job. There’s always ups and downs.’’
She doesn’t have a favourite costume of her own but loves being able to try on a range of different options when she is heading to a party.
Taking photos of every costume means she is still discovering new treasures, she says.
‘‘There’s just so many costumes. And sometimes it’s the ones you would never pick for yourself that work the best.’’
Miss Gulland says some customers come in with set ideas while others get inspired by the pictures of different costumes adorning the walls.
There is always room for creativity with each costume, she says.
‘‘It’s sometimes a bit outthere. Often guys hiring costumes want a gun to go with it.
‘‘Even if there’s no reason for that character to have a gun, like the Cookie Monster, they want to take one home.’’
Sophie Gulland has been making a living out of playing dress-up for five years.