From Miley’s twerking onesie to ‘Despicable Me,’ Halloween in Miami is pop-culture savvy
10/25/2013 11:08 AM
10/28/2013 4:00 PM
Move over Superman. Hang up the cape, Supergirl. We still love you, but Miley’s riding a wrecking ball all over your Halloween plans.
The hottest Halloween costume this season apparently is the pink teddy-bear onesie with the tongue hanging out that the firebrand pop singer wore during her twerking routine with fellow risqué pop star Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards in late August. The foam finger she used in suggestive fashion, the one that has given Middle America heart palpitations for months since that televised routine, is another accessory that some local Halloween supply stores can’t keep in stock as the big day approaches Thursday.
Well, that didn’t take long.
“That’s something that whoever designs these things, [they] have to constantly be on top of what is going on in popular culture,” said Danik Mignano, assistant store manager for the Spirit of Halloween branch in The Palms at Town and Country Mall in Kendall. “We can’t keep the merchandise in stock. The twerking thing is amazing. We have to hold it for people and are allowing one per customer.”
Local merchants at both temporary storefront costume stores and year-round shops also have to pay attention to trending topics and be willing to travel to industry events to make sure that they are stocked with in-demand items like the twerking pop stars.
“If something happens right before Halloween, people really jump on that,” said Mary Holle of Miami Twice on Bird Road in Southwest Miami-Dade. Holle travels to Houston every January for a Halloween show where she selects all of the pieces she will order in March for the following season. Holle said that she and her team steam each costume that hangs on chrome hangers, waiting to be tried on.
“A lot of things on the Internet look really good, but they’re crap,” she said. “I touch everything I sell.”
So who is buying the $29.99 Miley teddy-bear onesie and accompanying $6 foam finger? Or the Thicke black-and-white striped suit?
“Believe it or not, it’s mixed. Whoever can fit in one of those bears,” Mignano said, laughing.
This year, superheroes — especially Batman ( The Dark Knight movie series is still a potent draw) and Superman (which had a film-series reboot this year) — are also popular. Down the block at Halloween City in Kendall, in a strip mall on Southwest 117th Avenue, pirates are among the costume and accessory shop’s biggest sellers this season, said Justin Brown, the store’s assistant manager. “I have no idea why,” he said, “but they are selling a lot.”
Perhaps it’s familiarity. Hard to go wrong with a pirate patch for all the wannabe Johnny Depps.
Aside from Miley, Holle isn’t sure how people will reinvent classic Halloween costumes this year.
“I don’t know how they can come up with a new Wonder Woman,” said Holle, the owner of Miami Twice, a 28-year-old, 5,000-square-foot costume and antique shop. “We’ve maxed out of everything, and it’s so hard to do something new.”
Movies and television still provide the bulk of ideas for costumes, along with perennials like witches, ghosts and zombies. AMC’s The Walking Dead, the highest-rated cable series in history, has kept the rotting, lumbering dead so popular that Spirit of Halloween customer Cibel Menendez, 32, had to scrap her plan to go as a zombie to a Halloween party. Instead, she will go as an army girl. The store was out of the zombie outfit she had considered.
“These are popular, gotta go with what’s in,” Menendez said as she handed the army outfit and accessories to sales associate Val Quesada.
Each year, Holle watches the trends that formulate from movies and events in pop culture.
“If there’s one trend this year, I have to say flappers because of the Great Gatsby movie,” said Holle.
A chain of Halloween Megastores pops up throughout Miami-Dade in early September, but it’s not until the week before Halloween that manager Scott Mesjan says customers come racing in.
“We live with serious anxiety,” said Mesjan, owner of the Megastore at Sunset Place in South Miami. “Everybody waits till the last minute. It seriously goes from zero to a hundred every year.”
The Halloween Megastore is a temporary Halloween space with permanent parent locations in Tampa, Orlando and Fort Meyers. The company started about six years ago and now operates 20 stores a year across Florida.
And every year that Mesjan sets up shop in Miami, he notices the need for sex appeal.
“Girls sometimes come in and say, ‘I want the sluttiest thing you have,’ and men say they want to look masculine and sexy for the females,” he said, adding that men often go for the Greek or Roman look to accentuate their muscles.
But trends are not only influenced by what’s sexy.
“Trends are influenced by TV — welcome to America,” he said.
This year, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones costumes are big sellers for Mesjan. “They’re getting bald caps, hazmat suits and lab coats,” he said about Breaking Bad, the AMC series in which a high school chemistry teacher turns drug lord.
But Mesjan said movies like The Purge — a horror film in which the killers wear a clear mask that distorts the face — and Despicable Me are also creating a big costume buzz this Halloween. If Miley rules over Spirit of Halloween, Despicable Me is on her heels at her store, Mignano said.
“Minions from Despicable Me are a No. 1 seller — we only have baby sizes left,” Mesjan said.
Mike Dixon has been watching Halloween evolve since the 1980s.
“It used to be a kids’ holiday and now it’s nightclubs and party life, and definitely more for adults,” said Dixon, a manager at Dixon Costumes on Northwest 72nd Avenue in Miami. “It’s that Halloween provides a good excuse for people to get a little wild.”
Dixon Costumes, originally established in 1926, has seen its share of trends. But Dixon said there are two constants to the holiday: sexiness and superheroes.
But music also has much to do with Halloween trends.
“Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Nikki Minaj,” said Dixon. Sorry Miley and Robin, you’re not quite as hot at this venerable shop.
But Halloween, itself, is as hot as ever, no matter the economic peaks and valleys, said Mignano. That’s because one thing never goes out of style:
“You can be whoever you want to be, whatever dream you had as a kid. You can become a kid again, and nobody is going to tell you you’re crazy,” she said. “You can wear whatever your fantasy is, and no one will question you — even Miley!”
Follow @HowardCohen and @BrittnyCharity on Twitter.
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