This Halloween, Turn to the Masters of Disguise

There's only one place to turn for all your dress-up needs this Halloween.

Photo by Laura Petrilla

Suppose you want to dress up as a giant cat this Halloween. Or the Joker. Or a really authentic pirate with an eye-patch, cutlass and pantaloons. Costume World can do that.

Need a fedora? Ballet shoes? A feather boa? Search the racks. You’re bound to find the perfect outfit.

“We’re very all-purpose,” says Missy McArdle. “Even if we don’t have a particular costume sitting in the store, we can have it for you the next day.”

McArdle is the personal assistant—and first-ever employee—of Marilynn Wick, the company’s CEO and founder (who McArdle describes as being “simply fabulous”). Born in Sugar Grove, Pa., Wick started selling costumes on a whim, and more than 30 years later, her collection is the largest in the country. The local outlet, one of six nationwide locations, has resided in the Strip District for 25 years.

Although McArdle lives in Florida, where Costume World is headquartered, she had a chance to work at the Strip District branch last Halloween.

“I fell completely in love with Pittsburgh,” she says. “I just think it’s a cool little town. Our employees are real Pittsburghers. We have a nice crosssection—from the young and tattooed to a lot older. I like that the store is right in the heart of things. It’s a hustling, bustling place.”

New visitors are often surprised by this emporium, which is tucked into an enormous brick building on Smallman Street. On the outside, the store is unassuming, but the interior is jam-packed with gowns, jackets and wigs. Like Wholey’s and Deluca’s, Costume World has become a veritable Strip District institution.

Halloween comes only once a year, but the store is equipped to costume just about any Broadway show—from 1776 wigs to Guys & Dolls pinstripes. Wick even owns original outfits worn by Julie Andrews and Sarah Jessica Parker (part of the Costume World Broadway Collection), plus 1.2 million other pieces.

“We have done many productions with the Civic Light Opera,” McArdle says. “They are our best clients, and we pull out all the stops for them.”

1690 Smallman St., Strip District; 800/243-1211,

Categories: Arts & Entertainment