Have you ever bought a costume or an outfit for a festival only to wear it once? Bushwick’s Costume Closet, located at 83 Starr St., is challenging the way locals think about event fashion by providing the neighborhood with affordable options that can either be bought or rented for any occasion all seasons of the year.
Cofounders and couple Felicia Mariah D’Ascanio and James Richwine opened the closet in the basement of their studio about a month ago and, after a successful launch party, they are finding that there is much more of a need for event fashion than they had originally thought.
“People coming through here, they get to express themselves in ways that I wouldn’t even think for myself,” said D’Ascanio. “I found that it also trickles into normal life. You start getting a casual version of your festival look or your costume look.”
D’Ascanio, a stylist who moved to New York about seven years ago with a theater background, already had an extensive closet to begin with. Richwine, who had been part of the burner, or Burning Man, community for several years, combined his closet with D’Ascanio’s to create the Costume Closet.
The Costume Closet has a $5 rack among all other rentals. The security deposit for items ranges depending on their price and value, but according to Richwine, most items fall between the $5 – $10 range for a 10-day rental period. The security deposit is returned once the item is brought back, but the couple finds that over half of their customers decide to keep the item(s) rented.
In addition to the themed events hosted at the costume closet, the studio hosts clothing swaps where everybody is welcome to bring clothing they no longer wear in exchange for items they like, giving an opportunity for people to partake in the events even if they aren’t able to rent or purchase costumes.
“We’re both really good at styling and it gives people an opportunity of seeing things in a different way, like things they wouldn’t pick up for themselves,” said D’Ascanio. “I help create a look based on their personality.”
With the surge of fast fashion, the renting option and clothing swaps allow for a sustainable model of event fashion. “We’re constantly trying to cycle through things and give back to the community in any way that we can ‘cause the community gives so much to us,” said D’Ascanio. “It’s always this cycling of give and take.”
“I realized that shopping for men, particularly, or for me, was so isolated and one of the things that I think is cool is that there’s no gender in this. We don’t have sections or anything like that,” said Richwine whose favorite piece is a pastel rainbow tie-dye cardigan that he kept from a clothing swap.
The Costume Closet will be hosting a Halloween party this Sunday, October 17 from noon to 6 p.m. where you can enjoy some drinks, get styled, and listen to music in their backyard and studio. According to Richwine, the public event will also be an opportunity for collaboration with local artists. DJs will be present as well as Brooklyn-based vendors who will donate an item to the event for a raffle as their admission.
The party, as with the launch party, will take place at the artist studio.
“There’s something about going into someone’s home and into their backyard, like everyone was sitting on the floor outside and there were neighbors on their balconies,” Richwine shared. “For me, that grittiness about New York is kind of what I always really liked.”
“It just became a very wholesome event because it’s during the day. There’s kids there, but they’re all from this community,” D’Ascanio added. “But what I’m really excited about is having the opportunity to take what classic Halloween looks that everyone does like the skeletons, the pumpkins, the butterflies, the tigers, whatever, but make it something that is unique,” she continued.
The studio, as a creative space, holds about two or more community-based events a month, one of which is the clothing swap and the other is craft night.
For the couple, it’s all about the expansion of creativity. Personal projects like a gender-bend spider-demon costume from Demon Slayer, an anime D’Ascanio shared she’s obsessed with at the moment, or making collages out of old 1960s Playboys, or even going through inventory to see how to further transform items through alterations, are a constant in the studio.
“Come play dress up with us and expand what you think your style is!” said D’Ascanio.
“The weirder, the better,” added Richwine. “Let’s try something that may push your limits a little bit but will be a lot of fun at the end.”
Pearl Grace, assistant of both the costume closet and artist studio, helps with inventory and edits, among other things. Be sure to check out her clothing brand “Miau!”on IG and on weekends at Washington Square Park.
All Images by Allie Herrera unless otherwise specified.
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