It's Halloween, and we've fallen into an alternate dimension where Taobao doesn't exist. Spoooooky.
The Costume Shops
Ruby's Party is a 10-year veteran of the holiday-themed costume shop scene run by, yeah, Ruby. She moved the whole store down the street from her original location last year, to the Fth floor of an office building. It's one of those where they don't write the number "4" because it's ghoooostly. Unit F09 contains a single, sizeable room that's organized like the Pentagon archives, if they contained costumes. To the immediate right as you come in is a picture board of outfits, each tagged with a code. Accessories are tagged and stored separately. It's a precisely catalogued costume warehouse.
The costumes are mostly provided by the California Costume Company. They can creep up a bit in price compared to the stuff you find elsewhere. Expect to start at 200rmb for adults. However, they have an option where you can rent the costumes for 24 hours. You pay the full price as a down-payment, and you get back the change when you return it. Minus whatever horrible damage you inflicted on it.
Also, pinatas. Beautiful pinatas. Pinatas shaped like toilets. Prices start at 150rmb. Ruby's is also one of the few places I know that sells candycorn. It's 30rmb for a little tube of maybe 30. Can you put a price on childhood memories? Yes you can. And it's 1rmb per corned candy.
Location: Unit F09, 4/F, 201 Chengjiaqiao Zhi Lu, near Hongzhong Lu
Hours: Open daily, 9am-6pm. They open 9-8pm in the run-up to Halloween, from about the 20th to the 31st.
Another relatively recent transplant, this one used to be near Xujiahui. It's now out in Anting. Ouch. If you can shift yourself out there, you're greeted two floors of an entire house ("it's an actual Holiday House" I quipped to polite laughter from the lady who runs the place), packed out in seasonal paraphernalia and home decor. The first floor is where they have the season's showcase; for now, it's got boxes of Halloween stuff laid out. Masks, signs, ghoul heads, severed heads, orange and black feather boas, this guy;
On the second floor, there's a room dedicated to costumes. Prices range from about 85rmb for a kid's costume and up, 180rmb and up for adults. They appear to have the widest array of, how to say, sexy [blank] costumes I came across. How about going as "Ally Catraz"? Yes.
The owner says they spent 20 years at their Xujiahui location before rising rents forced them to relocate about a month ago. So they went and got a house in Anting. In other words, rent downtown'll could get you an actual house out in Anting. Of course, the problem for you, and Holiday House, is that Anting is located about an hour and 45 minutes from the center by public transport. A car'll take you maybe 40 minutes.
Location: inside Weimar Village No. 101, Gate 4, Lane 355 Beiande Lu, near Anyong Lu. The gate is sometimes called Dong Men (东门). Through the gate right at the end of Anyong Lu, then second lane on the left.
Hours: Daily, 9.30am-5pm
Jajaja Party Shop is tucked behind a Domino's in a Pudong apartment complex. It's got a nice array of outfits available off the rack and by order, ranging from 100rmb and up, including a whole-body werewolf one which looked like it had a little effort put into it. Also, just saying, Trump masks. Most of the good costumes hover in the 200-400rmb range. Adult Man Pharaoh Egyptian Costume 2015 will cost you 280rmb. Adult Sassy Red Riding Hood Costume will cost you 180rmb. Cool feature, they have most of their catalogue on their website and they have an option to deliver for a flat rate of 20rmb. Nifty. They seemed pretty chilled about their return policy, and yes, they still sell pinatas for 90rmb.
Location: 158 Biyun Lu near Baihua Lu, behind the Domino's Pizza
Hours: Daily, 10am-7pm
Nantai Costume Company isn't really a costume shop. It's an actual theatrical supplies store for Peking opera troupes. Full-on outfits are available here, from those fancy headdresses which start at 800rmb, the big old thunder god beards for 150rmb, the tunics and dresses for 180rmb and up. If you want to go to a party dressed as King Xiang Yu, this is your spot. Added bonus, it's surrounded by a dozen make-up shops too, so you could really go the whole hog if you wanted to.
I don't really think it counts as a costume shop, despite being literally that. People keep referring to it whenever this time of year rolls around, so all right, I guess here you are. Maybe give it a hard think before you walk in there looking for a Bund party outfit.
Location: 656 Guangdong Lu near Guangxi Lu
Hours: Daily 10am-5pm, probably. I'd say call ahead but the guy never answers his phone.
We've seen some suggestions that this place might be a spot to get some creepy outfits. It certainly looks like a graveyard. Buried under People's Square, we found two stalls that could arguably be considered costume shops. Hua Hua (Unit E28-A) has a bunch of children's outfits for between 150-700rmb (being in a market, that's probably negotiable). Lots of frilly princess dresses here.
The other was Xiang He Guan (Unit A18-7, A18-9), which was mostly children's toys but had a few Halloween knick-knacks. Masks, props, toy swords, etc. You could probably grab yourself a few accessories here for less than 100rmb that, coupled with your own wardrobe, might, possibly, pass for a costume.
So what does this place have going for it? It's not a million miles from the center, for one. For two, you can get yourself a dirt cheap plastic devil's fork (ladies), and it's sort of on the way to M1NT.
Location: Underneath People's Square, entrance at 10 Pu'an Lu, near Jinling Zhong Lu
Hours: Xiang He Guan usually works from 9.30am-8pm, but sometimes stays open till 10.30pm if the owner's busy with stock. Hua Hua is open daily 10am-5pm, but the hours aren't fixed.
This is for you DIYers, masochists, bargain hunters and people whose imagination isn't satisfied with Adult Man Luxury Pirate Captain Costume (780rmb). These are the markets.
Some genius came-up with "Cheap" Lu to describe this clothing market. It remains a favorite among penny-pinchers and haggling fiends. With patience, some bargaining skills, and an insatiable thirst for your own suffering, you'd probably be able to find something here for next to nothing.
Buried under the Science & Technology Museum, this is one of the last of the great fake markets. Root around and you'll find crass, shoddily produced, probably toxic crap you can put on your body while you drink. Advice; if it's designed to touch your skin directly, don't buy it.
This one's for the ambitious types. The tailors and fabric shapers at the South Bund Fabric Market will just straight-up make you a costume. Whatever you want. Show up with a picture, maybe some additional materials, and someone who knows about fabrics, and they'll stitch you a Star Trek uniform overnight.
If you still haven't found a place to show off your costume/snidely comment on everyone else's, there's plenty to choose from.