Where to Shop for Halloween Costumes in San Francisco
Living in the Bay Area means you don't need a special occasion to wear costumes, but it also means bringing your A-game come October's end.
Much like a birthday, Halloween can easily stretch into a full week of festivities (and costumes) in San Francisco. The type of costume you choose depends on your Halloween personality. Some folks like to go the sexy route; others prefer next-level special effects makeup that looks like it came off a film set. Costumes puns and cultural touchstones are popular in the city, but they also require a little more crafting. No matter what you want to wear come Halloween, this guide is designed to help you find the resources you need. I've broken everything down in list form, divided by categories, and pulled it back together in a handy map at the end.
If you know of a spot that should be on this list, leave a comment below or ping me at email@example.com. Halloween is better with friends, and the same goes for costume shopping.
Full Costume Shopping OR Rental
Sewing and crafting isn't your thing? That's cool. There are enough stores in the city that sell head-to-toe costumes to get you through Halloween.
Costumes on Haight, 735 Haight Street
For serious costumes, including rentals, Costumes on Haight is your best bet. This is the type of rental shop that only seems to exist in the movies, where you can find larger than life looks that aren't just one-size-fits all tents with a self-tie belt. It's also a great resource for costumes props. (Extra-long, Audrey Hepburn-style cigarette holder? No problem.)
Fantasy Costumes, 1275 Folsom Street
This Folsom Street biz has been outfitting locals in both retail and rental costumes for more than 30 years. On the rental front, you can find everything from full animal suits to flappers. Looking to buy? Many of Fantasy's items items are one-of-a-kind and vintage, and the stock is constantly changing. You can also shop accessories, capes, costume jewelry, hats, tiaras, makeup, masks and wigs.
Piedmont Boutique, 1452 Haight Street
This store doesn't do Halloween costumes in the traditional sense—there's no packaging with a clearly-defined character outfit inside—but it has virtually every garment and accessory you would need to create a very glam costume. A lot of pieces here are designed and made in San Francisco, so price points are higher than what you find in fast fashion chains. If you need a bodysuit, tutu, wig, clamshell bra, faux fur jacket, or shiny jumpsuit, Piedmont Boutique will hook you up. The accessory wall is especially bonkers.
Spirit Halloween, 1000 Van Ness
Spirit is the Halloween emporium that pops up in an empty retail space each fall. For years, it was in the former Blockbuster store on Church Street. Last year, it moved to the former Sports Authority space in SoMa. This year, the San Francisco locations is inside the AMC at 1000 Van Ness. There are dozens of locations around the Bay Area, so the most convenient location for you may be outside the city.
One Stop Party Shop, 1600 Church Street
Don't let the teeny-tiny space fool you. If you can get past the creepy It clown display in the window, One Stop Party Shop has a large wall of costumes, as well as a strong selection of ears, hats, wings, and more. The shop owner is super helpful, too.
Cliff's Variety, 479 Castro Street
You can thank Cliff's for making Halloween an all-ages holiday. The store played a major role in reinventing Halloween back in the 70s. Beyond its societal contributions, Cliff's stocks a large wig selection, and a decent selection of fabrics and sewing notions. On the fabric side, (the left door), there's a small rack near the door with full costumes, masks, and hats. On the hardware side, you'll find a more extensive collection of children's costumes, as well as cheaper masks and a few wigs for grownups. Don't forget to scour the hardware section for unconventional materials!
Fantastico, 559 6th Street
This SoMa party store carries an excellent, year-round selection of wigs, hats, and masks, but it ramps up the costume selection in October. For more creative/crafty costuming, check the seasonal sections for greenery, ribbon, and decorations. If you're throwing a party, it also stocks a large assortment of wall and tabletop décor.
Dolls Kill, 1475 Haight Street
The Dolls Kill Halloween selection is geared toward the reveler who wants to wear an itty bitty costume with some kind of occult reference. (The Devil cheerleader ensemble sells out every year.) A lot of the options border on the Mean Girls criteria of lingerie with some kind of ears or tail attached—or a t-shirt dress that says, “I’m a mouse. Duh.— but you can also find sexy pills and pop-culture icons. For the best selection, shop the Dolls Kill website, but the shop is worth a try if you're in the neighborhood.
City Target, 789 Mission Street and 2675 Geary Boulevard
It's no surprise that you can find Halloween costume implements at a Target, but not all SF Target locations are stocked equally. For full-scale costumes and accessories plus makeup, either try the City Target in the Metreon on Mission or on Geary at Masonic. Fair warning: the pickings are slim right now, and there are more children's costumes than adult costumes. For a more basic selection, try the Target Express stores for a small selection of wings and adult onesies.
Party City, 1685 Bryant Street
What Party City lacks in charm, it makes up for in selection. This Potrero party superstore carries party décor year round, and a wall of costume options during Halloween. It's pretty standard costume fare—outfits bundled into plastic hanging bags—along with ears, antennae, masks, and hats.
Okay, DIY-ers and Project Runway hopefuls. This is your chance to let your sewing skills shine. In addition to the sewing sections at Mendel's and Cliff's Variety (above), don't forget to check out these sewing-specific spots.
Britex Fabrics, 146 Geary Street
Britex is not the store I associate with cheap Halloween fabric, but if you're going to splash out on a beautiful costume to keep for years, this is your spot. Every fabric, every trim, every button imaginable, in one comprehensive Union Square spot. The staff is super-knowledgeable and happy to help you with sewing advice if you're in a pickle regarding how to proceed with your costume.
Fabric Outlet, 2109 Mission Street
For the more budget-conscious fabric shoppers, there's almost always a sale happening at Fabric Outlet. Visit this Mission spot for shiny and stretchy fabrics, all the sewing notions and needles you need, and patterns to boot! You'll also find dyes, googly eyes, masks, boas, and a healthy dose of inspiration from the staff.
Vintage and Thrift Stores
When it comes to costumes that can be defined by IRL clothing, (as opposed to animal suits or superhero costumes), vintage and thrift stores are a goldmine. This list includes a few favorites for when you want to spend all your money or when you want to save.
Decades of Fashion, 1653 Haight Street
This store is a San Francisco treasure, but the pieces here will cost you. The owner claims to carry the "largest collection of vintage clothing in San Francisco, dating 1880s to 1980s." There are pieces for men, women, and children in every style and era. If you're looking for an authentic flapper dress to wear for Halloween (starting around $300), Decades should be your first stop.
Held Over, 1543 Haight Street
Held Over is extremely-well organized, both by decade and theme: it's easy to locate an 80s prom dress, 1960s tuxedo, or a 70s "sexy secretary" look. Plus, you'll find lots of vintage accessories, particularly military hats, if you just want a vintage pièce de résistance to an otherwise-new look. As far as vintage shops go, prices are pretty reasonable.
Community Thrift, 623 Valencia Street
At Community Thrift, a non-profit thrift store in the Mission, the prices are low and the selection is vast. If you're looking for clothing that you can alter, slash up, or add blood to, it makes sense to save money by shopping here—even if it requires a bit of digging. Want a Margot Tenenbaum dress or Inspector Gadget trench? This shop should be on your list.
Out of the Closet, 1295 Folsom Street and 1498 Polk Street
Another solid costuming choice—most clothing items here are under $10. The prices at AHF's Out of the Closet stores are pretty tough to beat, and proceeds from the shops go to benefit go to programs like HIV testing, condom distribution, and prescription services.
The stores that sell full costumes and fabrics will usually carry accessories: masks, wigs, wings, boas, and the like. This final group is for stores that won't have a full range of costumes, but have been carrying things like ear headbands and Halloween makeup.
H&M, 150 Powell Street
H&M's online Halloween shop consists of a single cheerleader costume, a few onesies, a skeleton dress, and some ear headbands. You'll find even less in the brand's Union Square flagship. I wouldn't recommend making a special trip just for Halloween costuming—unless you're looking for inexpensive clothes that you can style into a costume—but if you're at the store and in need of a cheap devil-horned headband, you'll be set.
Urban Outfitters, 80 Powell Street and 3322 Fillmore Street
UO is really into giant mascot-style heads ($70), and it has a few—along with the far more subtle headband ears—at its stores. As the big day approaches, you risk stores selling out of comically large alpaca headpieces, but you'll also see prices drop.
Daiso Japan, 22 Peace Plaza, 570 Market Street, and 2300 16th Street
Daiso is the Japanese equivalent of a dollar store. Everything is $1.50, unless otherwise marked. The San Francisco locations have a small selection of ears, tails, and masks for Halloween. You're probably not winning your office Halloween costume contest with a look sourced exclusively from Daiso, but it's enough to show that you got into the Halloween spirit. (And you didn't spend a lot of money.)