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The cost of a Halloween costume

What's the best thing about Halloween?

Dressing up. It's your opportunity to scare your friends, spook your neighbors or let your freak-flag fly for one night as you take on a persona and style completely unlike your daywear.

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And do we ever enjoy this holiday. Halloween is the second-biggest decorating holiday. Americans are expected to spend $3.29 billion for Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The average consumer will spend $48.48 on holiday merchandise, up from $43.57 last year.

So, what will dressing up cost this year? We scoured the Web and talked to managers of famous costume stores to find out what's in this Halloween, and how much will it cost to achieve the look.

Star Wars and Spiderman return
The top picks in hot spots this year: Spiderman and Star Wars characters.

Kevin Pohle, owner of the Wizard's Chest in Denver, says superheroes such as Spiderman and Star Wars characters such as the Jedi Knights and Darth Vader are popular again this year with the boys. For girls, fairies and princesses are perennial favorites, along with a new trend toward "scary costumes," he says.

Costume prices generally range from $15 to $150. If you have more money to burn however, the Wizard's Chest offers a Super Deluxe Darth Vader costume for $1,000! Complete with a voice-altering mechanism, the costume is sure to be impressive at any Halloween party.

Feeling thrifty? Dress up like Napoleon Dynamite! Wigs and dork glasses are just a few of the accessories the Wizard's Chest offers. They also carry makeup, capes, fake weapons, an array of gloves, wands and jewelry, "plus all the necessary details that make a costume, such as flapper beads or the heart clock for the Tin Man from the 'Wizard of Oz,'" he says. Wigs range from $10 to $25.

Rent or ruin
Boston Costume, a Massachusetts staple in strange styles for more than 20 years, offers over 50,000 rental costumes.

Store manager Terry Anderson says he expects the "sexy" costumes to be popular yet again this year. While pimps and scantily-clad Lil' Bo Beeps are expected hits, so are Ali G costumes, superheroes like the Fantastic Four and Batman. For rentals, prices range from $45 to $95 ($125 up to $300 for premium costumes) and retail costumes go for $45 to $75. Boston Costume also offers an array of accessories, including masks, boas, wigs, Egyptian armbands and even body latex paint.

While renting for $45 will get a higher-quality costume than you could purchase, quality is not the only consideration. It depends on what party you plan to attend. So if you plan on bobbing for severed heads, buy. Sharing high-blood tea with the Queen, rent.

Ghouls just wanna have fun
In Austin, Texas, one costume emporium, Lucy in Disguise, is open year-round. Available for rent or purchase, most of their Halloween costumes run $5 up to $65 for rentals and sell for $10 to $700, depending on how many pieces there are, says Rio Jennings, store manager. Like the Wizard's Chest, the Darth Vader costume, also complete with the voice-altering mechanism, goes for a grand. "It's actually hard for people to get into it; it has so many layers," Jennings says. "But it looks just like him."

However, Vader isn't the most expensive costume in the store. Unfortunately for ogre wannabes, one big, green, monster suit costs customers a hefty chunk of change - that'll be $1,100, please.

On the cheaper side, Lucy in Disguise offers a wide range of accessories for the do-it-yourselfers out there just looking for a wand or wig. Customers can find anything from $3 garters to $6 gold scepters or $13 parasols.

Popular (and cheaper) costumes for this Halloween include Star Wars characters, superheroes like Spiderman and Batman, and even disco outfits. An adult Chewbacca costume rents for $45 and sells for $100, while Princess Leia rents for $20 and sells for $50. Spiderman will cost you $20 to $25 to rent and $76 to own.

Jennings estimates that traditional favorites like vampires and devils will be popular again this year.

Ghost in the machine
If waiting in line at a costume shop is unappealing, you can look online. Lillian Vernon's Web site has a huge costume selection including baby Winnie the Pooh for $35, Darth Vader and clone trooper child costumes for $35 to $60, and Trinity and Neo adult costumes for $38 each.

While you're online, look at 9mmsfx, a specialty contact lens supplier or Lensesbymail. You wouldn't want to wear these contacts every day though-- lenses are flecked, swirled, cat-shaped, lizard-shaped, spiderwebbed, all black, all red, all white, ringed with Jaw-like teeth and can even be glow-in-the-dark! These contacts are interesting accessories but can be expensive. A pair of these lenses runs from about $35 to $350.

Sparky gets spooky
Your pet can be an accessory too. After all, everyone needs companionship, even the undead. Pet costume kits are available including superheroes, kings, devils, princesses, vampires and clowns. The pet costume kits sell for $6 to $16.

Before you shove Sparky into one of these getups, there are a few things you need to check -- or your Halloween might be spent in a veterinary hospital.

"Most of the pet costumes you buy at the store are pretty safe," says Dr. Samantha Beck, veterinarian and medical director of VCA Boca Del Mar Animal Hospital in Boca Raton, Fla. "You want to watch out for hanging strings, tinsel, ribbon and feathers." These items can cause choking and internal problems.

"Check that elastic bands aren't too tight and that the costume doesn't interfere with a leash or hang in the pet's ears or eyes. Pets going trick-or-treating should be wearing reflective collars or reflective tape on their costumes to protect them from traffic."

Spooks on a shoestring
For those doing Halloween on a budget, a good cape and a mask or painting your face will do the trick; or just buy the bare essentials to accessorize an outfit you already have.

Editorial assistant Leslie Hunt contributed to this article.



-- Updated: Sept. 27, 2005




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