Halloween costumes: Flaunt your alter-ego

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Like its customers, Halloween Dreams to Screams alters its identity every Halloween.

For the business, the transformation occurs in August as the three stores owned by Valley Pool & Spa change names and begin selling Halloween costumes, with over 5,000 at each site: 1512 Lincoln Highway, North Versailles; 6207 State Route 30, Greensburg; and 3747 William Penn Highway, Monroeville.

Monroeville site assistant manager Alex Campedel said this year young boys are asking for costumes about superheroes, especially the stars of the latest "The Avengers" movie: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk.

Still, Batman and Superman remain perennial favorites, he said.

Young girls like to dress as monsters, too, he said "but with fluffy stuff, like wearing a monster hat with fluffy dress,'' he said.

Costume prices range from $9.99 to $100; the shop doesn't do rentals.

Mr. Campedel said the superstore carries a large variety of makeup, accessories and props for all looks, including those popular ones from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" adventure movie series which made buccaneer Jack Sparrow a star on the High Seas as well as in the costume world.

Men going to a Halloween party often buy a ruffled shirt, knickers, eye patch, wig and a big hat with feathers.

For female pirates, there are laced-up corsets and short dresses and skirts.

At Halloween Adventure, 5256 State Route 30, in Hempfield's Westmoreland Mall, the movies "Despicable Me'' and "Monster High'' have spawned costume cottage industries.

The tiny, lovable yellow henchmen in blue overalls and metal goggles known as minions from "Despicable" can be brought to life for $24.99 for children --$36.99 for adults.

It is the superstore's most popular costume this year, manager Jenn Keough said.

A Halloween party-goer can enroll at "Monster High" by dressing as its popular characters Clawdeen Wolf, Draculaura and Frankie Stein.

For the uninitiated: Frankie is the ''daughter'' of Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein and has black-and-white hair, neck bolts, and a necktie with skull worn with a plaid schoolgirl dress.

Her costume ranges from $22.99 for girls and $42.99 for women. Accessories, such as a wig, makeup-kit and Frankie's signature fingerless gloves, cost extra.

Halloween Adventure also transforms itself every August into a costume shop inside the Smart Toys venues. Sites include South Hills Village in Upper St. Clair and two in Robinson, including the year-round Masquerade LLC.

Ms. Keough said for boys, superheroes are a sure-fire draw, as are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the late 1980s, who are enjoying a comeback.

Adult and child costumes at Halloween Adventure range from $20 to $200. There are no rentals. Masks start at $20; Mardi Gras-style half-masks are $6.

The swashbuckling motif is a big seller for adult couples who opt for matching pirate and wench costumes, Ms. Keough said.

She also said the retro look, going back to the 1950s, 1960s -- even 1980s -- is popular with adults who want to recapture whatever look was hip in their youth: rock 'n' roll, hippie, disco.

She described the 1980s look as bright neon colors with lots of jewelry and "punk rock edge.''

As for today's zombie infestation in television, movies, and books, there is no shortage of affordable props, Ms. Keough noted.

"We sell lots of white zombie makeup, and stuff to look like blood and gore."

For more selections from Halloween Adventure, visit: www.halloweenadventure.com. For Halloween Dreams to Screams, visit: www.dreamstoscreams.com.

Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com

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