Walking into the Cincinnati Landmark Productions costume shop at 4105 Glenway Avenue in Price Hill is like entering another world, with monsters sidling up to Victorian ladies, and rows of tuxedos next to ball gowns and army uniforms. There are costumes on racks, on mannequins, on shelves—even hanging from the ceiling. Caren Young is the resident costume designer for Cincinnati Landmark Productions’ two theatres, the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts and the Showboat Majestic, and she is the keeper of the trove. “There is method to the madness,” she assures her visitors; she can quickly find anything from a rainbow coat for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to the perfect hat for Auntie Mame.
The costumes are all theatrical, a bit more elegant than Halloween stalwarts such as zombies or monsters, and definitely more original than the popular superhero choices including Spiderman and Batman. If you have a great idea for this weekend’s costume party, this is the place to check.
Young will be open on Sat., Oct. 27, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.—the Saturdays before Halloween are the only days she has retail hours, but you can rent a costume anytime by appointment; contact her at email@example.com. “Santa suits at Christmas, Easter Bunny outfits, we rent them all,” Young says.
“I sew all day most days,” Young commented, and most of the costumes available are handmade, originally for specific productions at theatres, although she does have a large stock of men’s suits and formal wear that she has acquired from various sources. She also has accessories—drawers of gloves, shelves of hats, and a large pinboard covered with jewelry and other small items that can provide the finishing touch for a period costume.
Young provides costumes for about twenty shows a year; she designs the productions for the Covedale and Showboat seasons and also rents costumes, from a full show to a few pieces, to community theatres, colleges, and high schools in the area. She’s currently creating costumes for a production of Hairspray at Xavier University and a Christmas-themed Cinderella at the Covedale.
She got her start in the costume business in college; a fashion major who acted in a few shows while in high school and college, she saw a performance of The Nutcracker by the Cincinnati Ballet during Christmas break her freshman year, and the beautiful costumes in that production put her on a slightly different career path. Her college didn’t offer a degree in costume design, but they did allow students to create their own degree. So she created her own curriculum with classes from the fashion design, art, and theatre departments. She designed the costumes for every show the college put on while working for her degree, which provided her with invaluable practical experience.
Young operated the Cincinnati Costume Company on McMicken Avenue for many years, but when fire destroyed the business and her stock of nearly 40,000 costumes in July 2007, she didn’t have the heart to start over. She had been designing costumes for the Showboat and Covedale theatres, and found her niche there as the resident costume designer and caretaker—though not owner—of their ever-growing costume collection.
So, if you are considering a unique costume for Halloween—think Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, or perhaps an odd couple such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens or Captain Hook and Tiger Lily, look no further than Price Hill’s Caren Young, who will whirl through her stock and find the perfect pieces to bring your ideas to life in no time at all.