Walking into Uptown Costumes, one is immediately hit with the sense that this is not a typical thrift store. With two stories of shopping and racks of costumes, records, posters and clothes, it has anything one could be looking for. For students at Ohio University, this assortment is alluring.
“There’s such a wide variety of things, and really unique items can be found here,” Kaitlynn Shryock, a junior studying music production and recording industry, said while visiting the shop. “I like that they’re all very decently priced and affordable.”
Uptown Costumes has been a fixture in Athens for years, and despite originally being a record shop they know how to follow the times and appeal to their main demographic. Thus, keeping things low-priced and interesting is one of their main priorities. They even have a system where shoppers can rent out clothes to wear, which is generally a cheaper option than flat-out buying an item they may only be using once in a play or performance.
Nick Allen, a student visiting from The Ohio State University, had only beaming reviews when asked about the shop despite only visiting once. Being from Ohio State means he has seen the sprawl of a city like Columbus with thousands of stores. But still, he really enjoys Uptown Costumes and appreciates what they have to offer.
“It’s pretty different than a lot of what’s in Athens,” Allen said. “It’s just a very niche shop. It gives some variety and interest to Court Street.”
Being close to the campus and advertising costumes for Halloween-obsessed students makes Uptown Costumes a prime spot for students to stumble into, just like Allen and Shryock did. But look past the masks and posters to the second floor where one can find a rotating cast of clothes: ugly sweaters for Christmas, lingerie for Valentine’s Day and other holiday-adjacent clothes.
Christine McVicar, an employee at Uptown Costumes working on the upstairs floor, loves the alternation of vintage clothes the shop gets. She’s been wearing vintage clothes herself since the ‘60s. For her, working at Uptown Costumes is less like work and more like play, with how much she enjoys sorting through the collection and helping people find their favorite looks.
“You have to kind of hunt through to find the treasures, and what’s interesting is everybody’s idea of a treasure is different,” McVicar said. “Every once in a while I see something that is really ugly or I think is really cute and I can’t wait to see who buys it.”
Everyone that comes into Uptown Costumes has their own style and idea of what they want to wear. McVicar sometimes puts out her favorite items in plain sight just to see if the display will catch a potential buyer’s eye. One item that hasn’t been sold yet, but she wishes it would, is a Flying Monkey costume from “The Wizard of Oz."
“It was totally buried,” McVicar said. “I just think the monkey needs a walk.”
Casting such a wide net of interests is crucial for a small store like Uptown Costumes. From popular shows to old movies, there’s a costume for everyone there.
New employee Emma Wolfe has only seen the store through its busiest time of the year: Halloween. Nonetheless, she delights in working on the second floor, with a job title she describes as a “clothing connoisseur.”
“(I like) being able to work with clothes and helping people get their Halloween dreams,” Wolfe said.
Uptown Costumes is a niche spot in Athens, and its employees hope to have significant foot traffic even after the Halloween festivities are over. Especially with the uptick in demand for vintage clothing, Uptown Costumes can bring to life the best – as McVicar would put it – “treasures” for people who want stylish, eccentric clothing or even just staple pieces of a wardrobe.