The best local Halloween costumes and thrift shopping
Portland style, shopping, trends.
By Karen Vitt,

Fashion is all about fun. And it never gets more fun than on Halloween, when we can dress up sexy or scary or silly and forget our cares for a night of thrills and chills. In fact, the Halloween fun factor is such an appealing escape during this tough economic year that the National Retail Federation predicts people will spend more on Halloween this year than ever before — but that doesn’t mean you have to, thanks to Portland’s stellar vintage and thrift shopping scene.

“The economy has caught up to Halloween this year,” said Tracy Mullin in a press release from the NRF. “Since retailers know that Americans will be looking to celebrate on a budget, there’s no doubt we will see creative costume and decorating ideas in every price point imaginable.”

This is especially true in prolific Portland, where ultra-creative types know how to dress like it’s Halloween ever day. Because PDX style centers around creating interesting, highly individual looks, we seek out one-of-a-kind vintage finds with care. We plan entire days around scouring the Goodwill bins for imaginative bits and pieces, poking around world class second-hand stores like Red Light Clothing Exchange, or seeking out interesting new indie thrift stores like Palace of Industry. This is what we do, and we do it with even more gusto on Halloween.

Portland’s busiest and most reliable source for affordable and unique Halloween costumes is Red Light Clothing Exchange on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, where store manager Erica Easley says they’ve been collecting costumes for more than a decade.

“The Red Light has been saving over-the-top vintage pieces and costumes all year just for Halloween. So we have tons of beautiful, crazy stuff,” Easley said. “It’s like a whirlwind of the most fabulous, outrageous fashion statements from the past few centuries. It’s a great opportunity to get creative with your costume.”

However creative you plan to get this year, Easley says she expects the most popular Portland Halloween costumes of 2010 to relate to looks from key decades. “We have everything for the ’70s and ’80s, ’20s flappers, classics like vampires and martians. And, of course, Lady Gaga!”

Once you decide how sexy, scary or silly you want to be, it’s time to hit the shops. Start with sure-fire stops Red Light and Buffalo Exchange (we like these because you can also find new accessories like warm tights and plastic spiders) and House of Vintage (all within close range of one another on Hawthorne Boulevard); then branch out to Hollywood Vintage, Palace of Industry, Animal Traffic and Magpie. And if you want to get really classy, you’ll find exquisite vintage party wear at Xtabay Vintage on Southeast Clinton Street.

Find more options through Shop Vintage Portland, the city’s most comprehensive guide to local vintage shopping. For ideas to get started, here are Red Light’s preditions for the Top 10 Portland Halloween costumes of 2010:

  • Flappers! An easy, popular favorite every year
  • Lady Gaga (Red Light has Gaga wigs + hair bows)
  • Vampires (scary and sexy)
  • Mad Scientist
  • ’70s Disco (oh yeah, polyester!)
  • Martians
  • Aerobics Instructors (Another excuse to wear a leotard!)
  • ’80s ANYTHING (skiers, hair/metal bands or Dynasty characters!)
  • Marie Antoinette/18th Century Nobility
  • Victorian (we think Victorian vampires are especially neat)
  • ’80s Icons (i.e., hair/metal bands or Dynasty characters)

The Red Light Clothing Exchange

3590 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.; 503-963-8888

Buffalo Exchange (two locations)

1036 W. Burnside; 503-222-3418

1420 S.E. 37th Ave.; 503-234-1302

Shop Vintage Portland

Photos by Jodi Bates, courtesy of Red Light Clothing Exchange. If you like what you see on The Neat Sheet,

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