Iconic Melbourne Atelier Rose Chong Costumes Think You Can Do Better Than Octopus Games This Halloween

With Tiger King and Nurse Ratched already behind us, says Hannah Cuthbertson, store manager for Fitzroy’s Rose Chong Costumes, requests for costumes inspired by Play squid – the dystopian South Korean cult series that is currently Netflix’s most successful original show ever – has been huge. However, Cuthbertson, the in-house stylist, has encouraged Halloween fans to think more fabulously. “We can make you a baroque vampire instead,” she says playfully, “and is not it better?”

In 1979, when founder and creative force Rose Chong bought the former Macedonian social club on the corner of Gore and Gertrude streets, the Fitzroy strip was better known for its heroin trade than its stores, and Halloween was far from the seasonal party starter, the is. Today.

In the 42 years that have passed since, from the store’s famous flamboyant building, Chong has seen Melburnian’s taste for Halloween festivities change, and the Celtic-cum-catholic-cum-consumer holiday steadily sinks his feeble-minded claws deeper and deeper. in the city’s cultural calendar.

Dr. Harriette Richards, a research fellow at the School of Culture and Communication at Melbourne University, says her first major Melbourne Halloween party was about eight years ago, and since then she, like many other Melbourne residents, has noticed a marked increase in spooky celebrations. around the holidays.

It is not like Easter or Christmas, she says, which is connected with Christianity. “It’s an opportunity to come together on something that is not based on religion,” as Richards believes, appealing to secular millennials who enjoy developing their own traditions with their young families. For older Gen Z’ers, who are probably the first Australians to have even celebrated the tradition as children, Halloween is already seen as an established custom.

The changing face of Halloween has certainly not gone unnoticed at the Fitzroy Workshop. Chong and Cuthbertson say the rise and rise of social media and streaming services over the past decade has driven a noticeable rise in Halloween shopping, as well as what costumes people demand and how quickly trends are reversing. Cuthbertson has observed that since the pandemic, the Melburnians have gone through pop culture references even faster.

When Cuthbertson started in the store 15 years ago, everyone wanted to go dressed as Moulin Rogue, and it was a trend that lasted for about five years.

Dr. Richards agrees, believing that our rising saturation in American culture has driven at least some of the trend, and that people’s perception of the holiday as “fun and playful” has also helped. “It’s an activity-based holiday” that is secular and inclusive, it makes everyone feel welcome, she says.

Chong says the biggest Halloween parties are often hosted by the most unlikely industries. “Often they are the most typically boring [professions]: lawyers, insurance brokers, financial advisers; basically fits. ”

The last few years, they have also noticed that their Santa costumes have become completely unloved. “Companies stopped celebrating Christmas because of families going away and sensitivity around people who are not Christmas celebrators.”

During the lockdown, the store catered to eager Halloween parties by offering online styling and click-and-collect. On its way out of hibernation in time for the big day on Sunday, it is now making personal styling appointments, and to meet demand, it has set up an appointment system, with vacancies on Friday and Saturday. Chong says the one-on-one sessions with one of her happy bands of “Chongettes” will allow players to find what they want in the three-level maze of gaze and enjoyment.

Chong says her staff is “pretty smart” and can help figure out a client’s masked MO. If you are spicy, “they will take you a little bit juicier than you had imagined,” she says cheekily.

“It’s always the quiet ones who do not want anything to wear,” Cuthbertson says, adding that if you are more of a gorilla suit, the team will work with you on your “silhouette preferences.”

Chong wants her customers to feel stunning and elegant and says the store has always been about deliberate couture, meaning it has not packed costumes. “We are totally against that kind of thing,” says the 76-year-old grandmother and art student with a penchant for pink.

She herself has designed and sewn many of the store’s thousands of items and created subversive collections such as “the sexual clowns” – a pastel series of liquid chiffon wedges. Of course, classics like Austin Powers, Frenchy and Elvis are also available.

Rentals start at $ 77 and deep cleaning is included in the service. All clothes are cleaned in the store’s internal “lab”. “There is more conflict and grief in the laundry than anywhere else in the industry,” she says giggling, noting that her staff regularly quarrel about the best washing techniques for the costumes. “We take cleaning very seriously.”

Rose Chong and the Chongettes are available to help you realize all your Halloween costume fantasies by appointment or walk-in this Friday and Saturday. Personal styling bookings can be made by calling the store on 9419 6233 and are free.


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