Patsy Dougherty has always loved playing dress-up. As a kid, she’d make her own Halloween costumes, donning her grandmother’s antique horsehair-fringed cape and reinventing herself as, say, a witch one year and a sorceress another. “I loved the clothes in old movies,” she says. “Fashion back then was truly glamorous.” So when, more than 25 years ago, Dougherty was cleaning out her grandmother’s West Philly attic and unearthed clothes dating from as far back as 1850, her natural instinct was to open a vintage clothing store. Today, her Germantown Avenue shop has evolved to become a haven for collectors and a costume mecca for Philly Halloween lovers.
What are you predicting as the big costume trend this year? Any time there’s an election or a big summer movie, you can guess what people will go after. I’d say we’ll have a lot of Pirates of the Caribbean-inspired wenches, some Miami Vice suits, and a lot of Supermen.
What do you see pretty regularly as the go-to costume? Flappers are always popular. They flatter everyone, since the dresses aren’t clingy and come in light and dark colors, and with different styles of sleeves. And every year we have at least a few people who think they’re the first to think of going as Cleopatra.
How do you find this stuff, anyway?Through auctions and estate sales and flea markets. People call me when they’re moving or if they’re cleaning out their attics. And whenever I travel, I take an empty suitcase — in Russia, I had to buy two extra suitcases to bring home all the pieces I bartered for and bought.
When should people come to you for the biggest selection? I bring out all kinds of things I’ve been saving starting around late September, and put them out in waves from then through October.
So what are you going as this year? I’m not sure. My favorites so far were Miss Piggy, Betty Boop, and a complicated, tentacled Ursula. Of course, the more complex the costume, the harder it is to go to the bathroom.
Past & Present, 7224 Germantown Avenue; 215-242-2908.