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NORTH HOLLYWOOD : Costume Company Sells Fashions From Film History

East Valley Focus

May 13, 1994|JEFF SCHNAUFER

It's a chance to wear home a piece of Hollywood.

A pair of prison fatigues are on sale for $100, but hey, they were worn in "Papillon." If you're a woman with a 14-inch waist, there are plenty of showgirl outfits awaiting.

And should you ever have the occasion to need one, there's a clothes rack dedicated to blood-stained, bullet-riddled jackets.

For a film buff, an actor going to an audition or a collector of vintage clothing, there's no better place to buy the shirt off a star's back.

Welcome to the North Hollywood outlet store of the Western Costume Company, a film fashion flea market where a buck can buy a piece of Hollywood history.

From "Papillon" to the "George Washington" miniseries, every item in the cluttered, musty store has appeared on the silver screen or television.

To make room for more inventory in the main warehouse next door, the outlet store opened last month to sell the outdated costumes to the public for the first time in the rental company's 82-year history.

"Where else are you gonna find this stuff?" said actor Chris Darga, 36, of North Hollywood, as he checked out one of the "Untouchables" television series jackets on sale for $25, still spattered with fake blood.

Although most of the 1,000-plus shoes, hats, dresses and other outfits in the outlet store were worn by extras, occasionally there are hidden treasures among the racks--items with the name of the famous star who wore it inscribed on the tag.

"We had one guy who found a two-piece outfit worn by Shirley Temple," said Giovanna Edwards, the costume curator at the shop, located on Vanowen Avenue.

"He and his friend were going to rent a bunch of old Shirley Temple videos to see which one it was in."

And there is no knowing when a rare, collectible item will come in. Stock for the outlet store is replenished once a week from the warehouse next door, which has an inventory of 5 million costumes that are rented.

Prices for most items range from $1--for a woman's hat from a turn-of-the-century film--to $25--for hats worn by the Mexican troops in the film "The Alamo."

The rest is a hodgepodge of costumes in conditions ranging from good to tattered.

Edwards recalls one woman who wanted to buy the movie poster from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Flower Drum Song" hanging above the cash register.

While it wasn't for sale, the Japanese kimono worn by an actress in the movie was.

"When she looked at the tag inside it had the name of the actress . . . she was so excited," Edwards said.

The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

A visit to the store Thursday revealed that some customers are just as interesting as the costumes.

"A lot of times, you need costumes to audition for the characters you do and thrift stores have become more expensive than Bullock's," said Darga, who recently appeared in a "Seinfeld" episode and once spent $1,500 for an audition suit.

"This is a good place to get cheap stuff."

Darga settled for something to wear until the next residual check comes in: a pair of $10 camouflage trousers that struggled through a few too many war scenes.

Al Fleming from Frazier Park walked in the door like he was already in costume.

Decked out in cowboy boots, a red handkerchief, and a Stetson hat covering his wild, gray hair, Fleming came over to look for some old blankets he could cut up for a scene he would be doing in an upcoming Western flick.

Although he did not find what he was looking for, he still left happy after shelling out $5 for a Revolutionary War officer's jacket.

"I've been coming here since the first day they opened," said Fleming, 52.

"You never know what you are going to find."

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