Bloomers, ‘90s punk and wigs, Oh My!: Noyes Cultural Arts Center hosts Costume Swap and Showcase


Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal

On Saturday, the Noyes Cultural Arts Center hosted a costume swap and showcase.

Tabi Parent and Ellie Stevens

A mannequin sported a vintage dress embroidered with spiderwebs and a multicolor argyle cardigan. Hanging next to a nearby Princess Anna dress, a custom “Hellfire Club” t-shirt with iron-on patches, inspired by “Stranger Things,” sat on display.

These pieces were just a selection of those at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center’s Costume Swap and Showcase on Saturday. The event aimed to help Evanston community members source vintage and recycled costumes, giving residents a place to sustainably dispose of old costumes.

Organizer Max Dinerstein, who worked as a costume designer at Evanston Children’s Theatre, started the event this year. They said they’ve noticed many costumes sitting in storage unused and wanted to give them new life. 

“We wanted … to get old fabric and old costumes out of stock and get them into the hands of people who could actually use them,” Dinerstein said. 

Evanston’s community arts program coordinator Angela Allyn said the event was inspired in part by the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, an Evanston theatre group based in African American and African Diaspora theatre traditions. The group has organized free costume swaps for kids and families in the past.

Most people only wear their costumes once and the swap is a way to find these extra costumes homes, Allyn said. 

“I’ve known theater companies that literally just threw everything out,” Allyn said. “Everything went into a dumpster.”

Off the main gallery, another room displayed a wider selection of donated costumes to choose from. Participants dropped off their own old costumes here, many donating wigs, superhero masks and princess costumes. 

Attendee Eitan Kimchi attended the swap with his 6-year-old daughter. Kimchi said his daughter was searching for any costume that didn’t have a dress.

“We had tons of costumes at home that we’ve outgrown or that we’re no longer interested in and we really want to just donate as much as we could,” Kimchi said.  

Attendees Jennifer Susan and Haleigh Kent, costume designers at Chicago’s Red Theater, came to the event for professional, not recreational, purposes.

The pair came to the event to source outfits for Red Theater’s fall production, “Vinegar Tom,” and successfully snagged bloomers along with Riot Grrrl gear to match the 90s punk theme of the play. 

“(The swap) is an event that brings community and creativity together,” Kent said. “It starts conversations and lets everyone else know about the cool, fun, creative things you’re working on.”

Though the swap was open to anyone seeking a costume, Dinerstein acknowledged that Halloween is coming up and said this was an inspiration for the event.

Though the event wasn’t Halloween-specific, Dinerstein wanted to cultivate a community mindset before the holiday. They said Halloween emphasizes community outside of immediate family. 

“It’s one of the few events in our society that still exists to meet your neighbor,” Dinerstein said. “Even if it’s as simple as a kid saying ‘Trick or treat!’ to you, you get to see all these people who are in the community.”

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Twitter: @elliestevens02

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @TabithaParent12

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