Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Halloween on a Budget

Crisp leaves are starting to fall and sweater weather has begun. It is fall in the District of Columbia, which means Halloween is swiftly approaching. Soon, children will go door-to-door searching fun-size candy bars to stuff their faces with and fill their stomachs. But, Halloween isn’t just for the kids anymore.

College kids in D.C. wait for Halloween each year for the infamous storming of Embassy Row. Rumors of Swedish chocolate and Russian vodka as treats consume the minds of students at American University. The sad part about this dream-filled Halloween excursion is that it’s just a dream and nowhere near a reality.

“The only embassy that actually gave us candy from their country was Korea,” Mady Nichas, 19, said, “all the other countries gave us American Candy. It was a definite let down.” But, students aren’t letting the let downs set them back. Halloween in a new city is exciting, so they try to make it that way.

“This year I’m making my own costumes,” Julia Goldstein, 20, an American University junior said. “I’m putting myself on a budget and letting my imagination run wild.”

The recent economic crisis is prompting college students like Goldstein and her roommate Paige Brown, 20, also an American University junior, to take a different approach to Halloween this year. The two-some found inspiration in an article run in the October 12 edition of The Washington Post’s Sunday Source “Trend Spotter” section. The Trend Spotting team visited five D.C. area thrift stores to find the best possible selection. This caught Goldstein’s fancy.

“Free on Sunday?,” she remembers asking her roommate. The second Brown said her Sunday was open, the choice was set in stone. Goldstein decided, “We’re going thrifting!"

Goldstein and Brown made their way to two of the five thrift stores visited by Washington Post writers Holly E. Thomas and Michelle Thomas Sunday afternoon with the hope of bringing their Halloween costume ideas to life.

“We’ve recently gotten really into that FX show ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’,” Brown said. “There’s this one episode when one of the characters Charlie wears this full-body neon green suit and calls himself Greenman. We decided to try and replicate that in every color possible.”

Eager for adventure, Goldstein, Brown, and their third roommate Brookes May – also a junior at American University – saddled up for a wild ride in their friend’s Honda Civic that they borrowed just for the day trip. Justin Timberlake boomed from the speakers as the trio cruised down Connecticut Avenue in D.C.’s Cleveland Park neighborhood. May couldn’t embark on the roommate adventure; she had a can’t-miss hair appointment.

After dropping May off, Goldstein and Brown pulled out the Sunday Source to map out the rest of their day. “Where to first,” Brown asked Goldstein as the two scanned the paper.

“Which ever’s closest, I guess,” Goldstein responded.

The Goodwill Retail Store in North East D.C. became the first stop on the thrift store tour. Chosen for its proximity, Brown booted up her cell phone’s GPS application to navigate the trip. “I don’t think my parents will have a problem with me downloading a $10 phone application so I can find my way around a big city while driving,” Brown said. “I like to see it as a solid investment on my part.”

The points were mapped and the destination set, it was time to invade the Goodwill.

Sunday Source Trend Spotters Michelle and Holly enjoyed their trip to the Goodwill, but Goldstein and Brown weren’t that impressed – until they found exactly what they wanted.

Greenman became Purpleman with the blink of an eye when Goldstein turned around to find Brown wearing purple spandex arm covers, an essential item of her desired Halloween costume.

“This is great,” she said. “This is perfect! All the random things at thrift stores, this is gold! That’s why I love ‘em.” The grand total of the “perfect” costume buy -- $1. “I’ll be honest, it doesn’t get any better than a one dollar buy,” she said.

Next on the thrift store tour – Unique Bazaar. There is no questioning the fact that it was the best stop of the day. The minute she stepped inside, Brown deemed it the “Costco of thrift stores”. A thrift store on one side a bazaar on the other, the entire store took over two hours to sort through the immeasurable amount of variety inside.

Children’s Taco Bell Chihuahua slippers, a Balley’s Total Fitness silver workout suit resembling a cheap T.V. spacesuit from the 1950’s, and a Barbara Streisand Christmas music cassette tape, were just a few of the plethora of garage sale-esque items flooding the store’s aisles. “It’s hard to not have ADD in here,” Brown said.

The girls ran through aisles petting fur-lined jackets, trying on Indiana Jones style fedoras, jumping up and down on pogo sticks, and paroozing the never-ending racks of vintage items.

The roommates even caught the eye of one bystander in the store who admired how much fun the pair appeared to be having during their two hours stay at Unique Bazaar. “I was watching you,” fellow shopper named Cheryl, 51, from Silver Spring, said to the girls. “You look like you’re having so much fun…keep on having fun!”

To top it off, the grand total spent on the day – $12.50 on costume supplies for Goldstein and $16 for Brown.

As the day came to a close and the girls sped home down the highway blasting John Thorogood’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” on D.C.’s classic rock station, they patted themselves on the back. “Job well done,” Goldstein said. “Second,” Brown said, “Mission accomplished!”

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Your browser may not support display of this image. Pictured: Julia Goldstein rummages through tons of tights, seraching for the perfect Halloween pair at Unique Bazaar.

Photo by: R.H. Levitin

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