This month, on Saturday, April 15, Victorian Vogue & The Costume Shoppe will celebrate 30 years in business. The storied costume shop known for all clothes colorful, fanciful, and vintage has clothed generations of people from all walks of life, be they costumed performers, partyers, and trick-or-treaters or creatively styled individuals that like to live life with flair. To celebrate its anniversary and show its gratitude, the store will offer a 30 percent discount for the month of April.
The glamorous garment emporium opened its doors in Santa Barbara in 1987 in Piccadilly Square, with proprietor Sonia Hayward offering an exclusive boutique featuring Victorian Whites. “I had an eccentric opera-singer aunt who left me her possessions,” Hayward said of the beginnings of her collection, amassed largely also from finds by friends who frequented East Germany and imported Victorian threads and finery. Though she didn’t see herself becoming a fashionista — “I was a hippie who didn’t know the difference between silk and polyester,” she recounted — she quickly began amassing a more and more diverse collection. “After 30 years, everything has a different story.” In 1990, Victorian Vogue absorbed a then-closing costume shop, Bird Feathers and Fox Fur, becoming Victorian Vogue & The Costume Shoppe in 1997 and moving to its State Street location beside the Granada Theatre, where it remained until 2007.
What sets the shop apart in the age of online retail is the personable, knowledgeable staff who have dressed everyone from Fiesta revelers to brides and grooms (replete with a beautiful wedding showcase room). From Solstice and children’s theater to cabaret and drag shows, Victorian Vogue has been an institution of invention for all of S.B.’s costuming needs. Its treasure trove of a collection is exhaustive, with authentic period pieces and ethnic dress, as well as hard-to-find and one-of-a-kind selections — actor Sean Penn was so impressed that he wanted to buy the place, recounts longtime employee Mayerling Weston.
There’s also the thrill of getting dressed up and the excitement of finding the perfect and often totally unexpected costume, many of which come to life on the spot in the inspirational surroundings. “We are here to help people create,” said longtime staffer Salvatore Mauro III. “The party starts here,” Hayward said. “We like losing ourselves in helping people lose themselves in a persona.”
Sadly, the business has slowed since the shuttering of Brooks Institute, and with it, all its photography students’ modeling and costumed photo shoots. Plus, the increasingly internet-driven economy has taken many would-be shoppers to their computer screens, making the store’s endurance in business all the more admirable — and needed, for such a festive town. Congratulations, Victorian Vogue, on so many great years, and here’s hoping the party keeps rolling for years to come.
Victorian Vogue & The Costume Shoppe is located at 4289 State Street. Call (805) 967-4626 or visit victorianvogue.com.