Whether you’re prepping for Halloween, New Year, your mate’s ABBA-themed birthday or just another night out at one of London’s many clubs, donning fancy dress makes everything more fun. Sure, you could paint the town red in those battered old New Balances or classic jeans and a nice top, but surely things would be heaps better if you were gussied up in Elizabethan garb or flaunting a fabulous flapper dress.
From Jedi weddings to Jane Austen conventions, whatever the reason for finding that perfect costume, we’ve put together a list of the top-notch fancy dress shops in London for all your needs. Choosing your ideal alter-ego will be the only dilemma…
1. Beyond Retro, Brick Lane
- Vintage shops
- Bethnal Green
One of London’s biggest and best second-hand shops and an excellent place to get kitted out for a fancy-dress party, with a mighty selection of vintage garms and accessories spanning the 1920s all the way up to the noughties.
2. Carnival Store
- West Kensington
Expect a strong selection of off-the-rack costumes and accessories, from fierce fangs to angelic wings, at this west London store. It initially appears small, but its two floors are rammed to the rafters with fancy dress delights and fun party gear.
3. Costume Boutique
- Ladbroke Grove
While you can just pop into Costume Boutique to browse through their vast range of costumes – which span everything from recreations of famous characters to swashbuckling pirate outfits – you’re best off booking an appointment to find your perfect alter-ego. These are not only free, but there’s no obligation to hire anything during your 45-minute fitting. Just enough time to ensure that you’re dressed to the nines (or like you’re in the 1920s).
4. Kryolan City
- Clothing hire
- Covent Garden
It used to be called Charles H Fox, and this is still the place professionals in the film and theatre industries come for make-up, wigs, latex and lashes. 1-2-1 make-up workshops are also on offer for men and women, covering glamour, editorial and avant-garde looks.
5. Mad World Fancy Dress and Costume Hire
With over 30 years experience, this cavernous costumier is home to more than 35,000 costumes. Fear not, however, as staff are on hand to help you navigate through their enormous collection rentals and sale items. What’s more, the staff will also help you with any alterations, sizing, styling and accessorising, ensuring that every inch of your costume is perfect. There are also two further stores in Kentish Town (205 Kentish Town Road, NW5 2JU) and Gatwick (1 Barns Court, Turners Hill Road, Crawley Down, West Sussex, RH10 4HQ)
- Clothing hire
- New Cross
Inside this unassuming New Cross establishment, sat next door to the town hall, is a costumier where magic is made. For between £110-150 + vat you can rent an entire costume with personal styling. Their specialty is with handmade couture and no two looks are ever the same. If you’re after something that’s truly outlandish, you can also have something made bespoke. They even offer a fantastical dressing up box for hire for that special party or alternative wedding you’re planning. The show room is open on an appointment-only basis, so make sure to book in advance
- Covent Garden
Professional make-up artists seek out Screenface for its high-quality, long-lasting make-up and tools of the trade. Haircare is of a similarly high standard, as are the make-up brushes and other tools. Special effects are big business: fake blood, adhesives and removers, plus all types of facial hair, from handlebar moustaches to mutton chops. It’s now based in the aforementioned Kryolan City London store.
8. So High Soho
This compact fancy dress shop does away with posh tailoring and ‘bespoke styling’ for something altogether more traditional. If you need fake spiders, pretend poos and a Spider-Man outfit, So High Soho has you covered. It’s a small but mighty.
9. The Costume Studio
- De Beauvoir
You’ll find no fake moustaches or pre-packaged Mr Blobby costumes here. This is an excellent, high-quality costume emporium with a rather impressive catalogue. Expertly made pieces, accessories, shoes and wigs are what you’ll find, with charges depending on exactly what your costume is for. They also offer a bespoke costuming service, too, and provide costumes for film, TV and music videos, as well as for that special event you’re planning.
10. The Viking Store
It might be niche, but this Walthamstow store is one of the biggest in Europe when it comes to replica militaria and costuming. Mainly catering to the LARPing (live action role-playing game) community, if you’re after historical costumes, swords, some armour or maybe just a Viking drinking horn, you’ll find all your fantasy and period needs catered too here.
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