March 11, 2015
A zebra-painted door separates you from a world of whimsy and wonder, starkly different from the bustling, tourist-ridden street outside.
Upon opening the door, vibrant colors welcome you into a unique world of make-believe and invite you into its 8,000 square feet to play.
Walls of sparkling jewelry and never-ending racks of exotic, extraordinary costumes surround you while lively music trumpets over the speakers, giving you the strange feeling you’re not in Kansas anymore. And you’re not. You’re in Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds.
Affectionately referred to simply as “Lucy’s” by Austinites, the costume shop nestled in the heart of South Congress between Tesoro’s Trading Company and Maya embodies the “Keep Austin Weird” vibe in a way few places can, with an atmosphere comparable to that of a carnival.
Opening in 1984 as “Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds and Electric Ladyland”, two smaller costume shops, Lucy’s is now Austin’s largest costume emporium, boasting vintage clothing along with thousands of costumes available for purchase or rent.
“Being able to rent costumes truly is an important and special thing,” Freshman University of Texas student Madeline Wynne said. “When you’re only going to wear a costume to a party once, it’s really unnecessary and cost inefficient to own it.”
From simpler themes such as “Disco” to racier themes like “Fetish”, Lucy’s has it all. The organization of the store in racks separated by decade and theme makes shopping for specific events easily accessible, but it’s the staff of twenty-five employees that sets the store apart from your average Party City.
Danielle*, an employee at Lucy’s in the Party Room, describes this to be her dream job, explaining that her previous jobs as a maker and seller of vitamins and a mermaid in California were boring, while working at Lucy’s was something she had applied to do multiple times before finally getting the job.
“I love that sometimes I can just come to work with a little blood on my face,” Danielle said. “It’s never boring. They choose which part of the store you work in by your personality and I feel like I really fit where I was placed.”
Jerry Durham, the manager of vintage and accessories at Lucy’s for nearly six full years, echoes the sentiments of his coworker, saying that it is never a dull day and he is challenged creatively daily.
“It’s hard to find a job as an adult where you get to be creative and playful everyday, and that’s why I’ve stayed.” Jerry said.
Jerry says that while October is the busiest month at Lucy’s, every day presents new opportunities for employees as, “people who know they can send people here tend to have stranger parties.”
Lucy’s receives shipments of vintage clothing and costumes from suppliers across the globe at least once a week, and at certain times of the year, more often than that, constantly expanding Lucy’s repertoire according to Jerry.
From this growing inventory brings new opportunities for exciting costumes. Danielle explains her craziest moment to be a man purchasing multiple “penis wands”, while Jerry says his favorite was finding costumes to dress partygoers in “Disco Disney” attire.
“I’m so grateful we have a place like Lucy’s here,” Wynne said. “Without it, I feel like Austin just wouldn’t be the same”