Cross its dust-ﬁlled moat, and inside are more than a million costumes, most handmade. This is Hollywood Costumes, the biggest costume supplier in the southern hemisphere. When fashion graduate Heidi du Toit started the shop, dressing up for parties wasn’t as popular as it is now. She used to work alone, through the night, with her sewing machine.
She’s seen the fashions change: pirates, medieval and even medical parties. She’d use jelly moulds for the fake organs and create straitjackets that you could still party in.
Afer 18 years in business, the shop still creates more than 300 costumes a week, as well as its own masks, mascots and props. The shop is an impressive web to let your fantasies get caught up in. There are original pieces, like jet pilot jumpsuits, complete with oxygen pipes, or school uniforms from Syria. Du Toit and her staﬀ have created mermaid tails and Elvis suits in every size from young and hot Blue Suede Shoes, to boozy and bloated.
Throughout the day the staﬀ say the same thing over and over: “If we don’t have it, we make it”. The shop’s expanse is littered with such one-oﬀ creations, from a two metre vintage lampshade designed to sit on top of a piano, to a hat with enormous striped feathers.
In the ballet and dance wear section, assistant Andrea van der Ness points to a rail of brightly coloured lycra thongs between the Latin shoes and tutus. “We have some more exotic clients,” she explains. Later, she points to a suit of armour. “This suit has asked so many women to marry it,” she says.
The shop is also deeply involved in the ﬁlm and music video industry and recently made a series of Zulu costumes for an Adam Sandler ﬁlm which was shot in South Africa. In a back room, a sculptor is slowly sponging wet latex onto a male mannequin. After weeks of careful sponging she will peel oﬀ the form and ﬁll it to create a fake man to appear with a black mamba in a new Bollywood project.
The Saturday Citizen met former model Christina Storm between the rails of sequined clothing. She’s returning a pink dress from her bachelorette party and a cowboy outﬁt her son wore.
Celebrities like Kurt Darren, Nicolas Louw and Nataniel seem to come back to Hollywood Costumes because of its can-do attitude and dedication to perfection. Just like a dentist’s oﬃce, they will make a mould of your teeth to
ﬁt you with Twilight-style vampire dentures or pour goo over your face while you breathe through a straw to make a perfect mask.
The staﬀ wander around in old Batman costumes, tutus and Minnie Mouse ears. But this doesn’t mean it is just playing dress-up all day. Du Toit says they frequently have new staﬀ go for lunch and not come back. Every single costume that is hired out must be washed before being returned to the shelf. Costumes are not labelled and staff members must know instinctively what is in their section.
“We only have real work-fairies here,” says du Toit.