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October 30, 2007

Last-minute witches, devils high on costume shoppers' list

DERRY -- The Costume Gallery in Derry was down to its last Hannah Montana wig and headset Monday afternoon. The wig, selling for $29.99, was a hot item, according to saleswoman Marion Bishop.

Although Hannah Montana, the teen pop star character on the show of the same name, came in 23rd on the National Retail Federation's top costume list, she was No. 1 in Derry.

"The Jack Sparrow ('Pirates of the Caribbean') look is still popular," Bishop said. "Anything to do with pirates."

Costume Gallery owner Claire Renaud -- known as Costume Claire -- has been making, selling and renting costumes for 25 years. She began the business in her Derry home and opened in downtown Derry in 1995.

Renaud grew up in Brattleboro, Vt., and has 11 sisters and four brothers.

"We were all encouraged to be creative," she said. "As soon as our feet could touch the sewing machine pedal, my sisters and I learned to sew."

Renaud said she always made her own Halloween costumes as a child.

"They were always outrageous," she said. "We made our own wigs and used clothing that we had on hand around the house."

The Costume Gallery does 35 percent of its yearly business in October.

Costume rentals range from $35 to $135, with the average between $60 and $70. Customers can keep their fling with fantasy for 65 hours.

"We are a little more lenient with turnaround time at Halloween," Bishop said. "A lot of people want to wear the costume to a party and they hand out candy for trick-or-treat in it."

Bishop said some people shop around online for a particular look and then call the store to see if they carry the item.

"The Marie Antoinette costume from Playboy was one this year," she said. It sells for $200, but the store also carries the costume from other companies that are less expensive.

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