Frequently Asked Questions:
Why should I rent a costume instead of buying one?
Reason One: Quality. Rental-quality costumes are made to be durable enough for onstage use. They will be much closer to "real clothes" than the flimsy packaged costumes you can buy at a party store. Your rental fee will be only a fraction of the item's cost.
Reason Two: Variety. There are hundreds of costumes available to rent, that you will not find in packaged costumes. American Backstage Company's huge inventory is astonishing in its variety. About 30% of our costumes have been acquired from theatre companies after the costumes have been used on stage. Another 30% were made in our shop (the former Backstage, Inc. in D.C.) to meet demand or custom orders. The rest of our costumes were manufactured by the major "costume houses" such as Leg Avenue, Rubies, Alexander's, and Costume Holiday House. Back to the issue of quality, by the way -- most of the costume houses manufacture costumes in several grades of quality and durability, and we carry only the higher end merchandise.
Reason Three: Variety again. You don't want to wear the same costume to every event, do you? No, we know you don't. You want to look spectacular in a different way, every time.
Reason Four: Service. We will work with you to find the right pieces for any costume you want. Our time period costumes range from Paleolithic to Roman to Elizabethan to Victorian to 1920s to World War II era to the fabulous fashions of the 1980s. We have all the accessories you could possibly need, theatrical makeup, and many years of costuming expertise.
Reason Five: To stand out. Many of our costumes are one-of a-kind! We also carry great costume sets for couples and groups. Every season we have customers tell us they have won the prize at their costume event!
Have the costumes been cleaned?
Absolutely yes! All our costumes have been dry-cleaned or laundered, as appropriate, after every rental, before they are returned to stock. We have full laundry facilities on site. Note, it is helpful to order a costume in advance, so we can have time to steam or press the items before your pickup, and double-check that no repairs are needed. At very busy times such as Halloween, two weeks advance notice would be required. WE ARE DEDICATED TO MAKING YOU LOOK SHARP!
Do we need to clean the costumes before returning them to you?
No. Please leave the cleaning to us. Sometimes it is more complicated than you would guess. For example, some kinds of velvet can be damaged by dry cleaning, but other velvets can be damaged by washing machines. (For long-term rentals such as for shows, if a costume needs cleaning during the course of the rental, please consult with us for washing instructions.)
Do you have dressing rooms?
We do. Also mirrors.
What is the difference between theatrical makeup and regular makeup?
There's a big difference. As every performer knows, stage lights will "wash you out" and give you a very pale appearance. Even large amounts of street makeup will not be enough to counteract this effect. Standard everyday makeup only contains about 25% of the pigment used in professional theatrical makeup. (Film makeup requires even more pigment. We carry some makeup for film use, and can order other types.)
The American Backstage Company is an authorized dealer for Ben Nye products. We also carry theatrical makeup by Krylon and Mehron, and latex applications by Cinema Secrets and Woochie. If allergies are a concern, please ask for advice about which brand would be better for your skin. For more information about our theatrical makeup products, please visit the Theatrical Makeup page on this site.
Makeup removal: We carry an excellent all-purpose makeup remover from Ben Nye called Quick Cleanse. Some performers swear by this product. Others find that unscented baby wipes work as well as anything else. Many like to use an astringent such as Seabreeze, which can be bought at the drugstore, to clean out the pores. This is particularly helpful for teen actors and others prone to acne. After makeup removal, don't forget to use moisturizing products that work best for your own skin.
What is the earliest I can reserve a costume for a holiday?
It's a great idea to plan ahead for particular events, such as Santas for Christmas, Leprechauns for St. Patrick's Day, and Easter Bunnies. We start taking reservations for any holiday as soon as the last big costume holiday has passed. For example, we take Christmas and New Years orders starting November 3 (after Halloween), Mardi Gras reservations starting January 2nd, and Easter orders start on Ash Wednesday.
Orders for Halloween can be done as early as May, and we have some customers who do just that. If you have your heart set on something in particular, our recommendation is to plan well ahead, as the hottest ideas go quickly every year. Two years ago, every black tutu in the country sold out after the success of the movie "Black Swan" -- all fifteen companies we order tutus from were sold out! We do our best to anticipate demand but sometimes a trend will surprise everyone. Delays may cause a missed costume opportunity. If your costume idea comes from a current movie or TV show, shop early. (By the way, early is not after October 21st for Halloween. The hottest looks will be gone by then, and we may or may not be able to reorder.)
What about custom orders?
We do custom orders 11 months of the year. A custom made costume can take, with fittings, from 10 days up to 2 months, depending on the costume and the volume of business we have at the time. June through August are our lightest scheduled months. October is our busiest, and we are not able to accept custom orders during that month. We have made specialized costumes for drag queens and female impersonators, corporate mascot costumes, food-related costumes -- we have people who can make just about anything! Usually custom orders are sold, not rented.
Do you rent children's costumes?
Yes, we do have some costumes for children, and we are working on building our children's collection. We have some children's costumes for sale also, and we carry some delightful children's dress-up sets for sale, for ages 3-6.
Can I rent just one piece of a costume?
What does it cost to rent a costume from The American Backstage Company?
It depends on the costume. Our minimum rental is $30. 95% of our costumes rent for under $100, but we do have a few very special costumes that are more expensive. They're worth it, too! We hope to get photos up here soon.
What is the duration of a costume rental?
Typically 48 hours, but we also do longer term rentals for theatre shows, etc.
Do you have a list of all your costumes?
Here's a partial list for you (will open in a new window). Since many of our costumes are one-of-a-kind and sizes vary, we do not offer a photo gallery of everything in our inventory.