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Just call her queen of costumes

Tim Mutrie

Halloween inspires odd things in folks, from the out-of-this-world look to simple straight-up weirdness – just ask Denise Moss, owner of Carbondale’s “Just Imagine,” the largest costume renter on the Western Slope.

“The best part about Halloween is watching how fascinated people become with expressing their alter egos through costume,” Moss said. “A grown man who wants to be the sheep from Little Bo Peep, that would be one fine example. I tell people if they want to see something interesting, come hang out here.”

Some 70 of Moss’ 400 costumes had been rented for the ritual rite of fall by late last week, and she expects to be pretty much cleaned out by this weekend. And she should know, having been in the business locally for five Halloweens now. Before moving into the attic of the Paperchase Building on Main Street in Carbondale, Moss operated out of the living room of her home.

It all started about five years ago, she explained. “I was single with two kids and I put an ad in the paper to sew costumes for people. Everyone who called me back was an adult, so I realized quickly that there was a market for it here.”

Moss proceeded to snatch up old bridesmaid’s gowns and other vintage clothing with which to create her own costumes. Most of the costumes at “Just Imagine” are Moss originals.

“I let the business grow until I outgrew the house,” she said. “I’d been in my living room until September – it’s an understatement to say it was a zoo.”

This Halloween, “elegance is in and Spanish is in,” Moss said. “All the Zorros and seoritas were the first to go out the door. Renaissance is in, too. The ’60s and ’70s are always in – if I had a thousand Austin Powers, I’d be the richest person in the world.”

Star Wars characters from the newest flick, “The Phantom Menace,” are hot, as well, she said. “When I went to Star Wars, I had a pad of paper with me to sketch all the costumes so I could make them.” At the end of last week, several Moss-designed Stars Wars characters remained, including the evil Darth Maul.

Looking for something unique? Moss suggested the King of Siam, the Evil Queen, Little Red Riding Hood (or Ho), a 1950s-style bathing suit with matching cap, or Jack the Ripper, fashioned from an 1880s vintage cloak. “You’ll never see that out,” Moss said.

Moss, who plans to go as the pirate queen on Sunday night, is a self-proclaimed Halloween aficionado.

“I just have a love of the business and a love of Halloween,” she said. Many of Moss’ regular customers consult her when choosing costumes each year.

Moss carries dozens of ghoulish accessories – all kinds of makeup, stockings, fake scars and gaping wounds, blood, weirdo sunglasses, Billy Bob teeth and Austin Powers teeth, fangs, whips and gloves – and she said she’s always willing to show customers how to use the items to best perfect their look, whatever it might be.

While Moss stocks an abundance of wigs – the Elvis, the beehive, the caveman and the Queen Cleo, among others – she doesn’t carry rubber masks, though she has plans to next year.

“It’s primarily an adult store,” Moss said. “I simply can’t compete with Wal-Mart. I do outfit a lot of teenagers though, and kids are into my wigs and makeup.”

An average rental runs about $50 or $60, though costumes do go for as little as $15 to as much as $250, she said.


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