showcasing the best of the south west
Top 10 Fancy Dress Shops in the SW

Top 10 Fancy Dress Shops in the SW

Bath Theatrical Costume Hire Somerset


Bath Theatrical is the absolute don of costumiers. Started in 1969 and run by the same family ever since it’s the real deal, a proper fantasy world where dreams are created. There are more than 25,000 costumes here, either handmade or vintage and spanning every decade and style. Currently popular are themed weddings from Black Adder to Steampunk and through every era Georgian, Tudor, Victorian. Bath Theatrical will make the bride’s dress and outfits for the groomsmen and dress all the guests – ‘dressing up is a brilliant ice breaker and the photos are timeless,’ says Rusette Auton, whose grandmother started the shop. Some of the stock comes from attic clear outs – recently a 93 year old man popped in to donate his Second World War army uniform and his wife’s 1930s nursing cape from Great Ormond Street. ‘Every piece has a story behind it,’ says Rusette. From theatre productions (including BBC shows) to hunt balls, big celebration parties, murder mystery nights, Bath Theatrical will cover it. Oddest request? Someone wanting to dress up as a dancing haggis.


Gladrags, Dorset

Gladrags, a wonderful, dusty old paradise of costume wear which never fails to supply something suitable, no matter how bizarre the request. It was recently wiped out of pirate gear for the local Pirates of the Carribbean themed Hunt Ball (think musket toting Sloanes) but still managed to rustle up a last minute Long John Silver for World Book Day. Head here for face paint, fake moustaches and gory scars, wigs and all manner of costumes from matadors to coalminers and everything in between. A gem.

The Real McCoy, Devon

This Exeter based vintage store is a treasure trove of pieces from the 20s to the 80s and much of it is available to hire as well as buy. There’s a small range of fancy dress here – superheroes, pirates and so on – but you’re here for the exquisite sequinned flapper dresses, the white and silver Go Go boots, the Pucci-esque 70s dresses, glam rock flares, lurex shirts,  Americana varsity jackets, or Mrs Thatcher 2 piece suits and pussy-cat bows. For a decade themed party look no further and if you fall in love with your outfit you can always buy it afterwards.

Absolutely Fabulous Costume Hire, Somerset

Fancy dress nirvana in the heart of Frome. There are more than 2000 costumes here, much of it theatrical quality, and literally everyone you can think of is covered from Margaret Thatcher to Mahatma Ghandi . Get as esoteric as you like – Dorian Grey? Tick. Ginger Spice and Robbie Williams? (Why would you?) Tick. Bay City Rollers. Tick. AbFab can cover literally all bases. There’s a gargantuan shoe collection  including gold and silver 60s boots and a vast range of animal costumes – indulge yourself, be a gorilla. Love and adore the fact that Prince Charles is filed under ‘Heroes & Villains’.

Limelite, Truro


Currently under siege from partygoers attending Pirate FM’s Through the Decades party – Limelite has seen a run on neons, sequins, frilly shirts, padded shoulders – ‘everything from Dynasty and Dallas to Crocodile Dundee and Indiana Jones and Madonna in her many, five minute phases,’ says owner Paula Sanderson. Limelite has been going since the 80s and has the stock to show for it. Cornwallians love to dress up, apparently, especially on New Year’s Eve. Who knew that St Ives was the dress up capital of Britain? You’ll find it all here from pirates, naturally, to the more obscure – Bavarian Bar Maid? Ron Weasley?

Fantasy World, Exeter, Devon

We can thank the inbuilt student population for the fact that Exeter is a hotbed of dressing up shops. Fantasy World does just what it says on the tin – come here for Mr Ben makeovers, there’s nothing they can’t do. To give you an idea – emerge from your changing room as a Roman soldier, a ringmaster or Freddie Flintstone.  Looking for a penguin suit, a pig’s head mask, feel like being Mickey Mouse for the day? No problem. A shrine to dressing up with every kind of face paint, beards, wigs, Venetian masks and a whole arsenal of guns and swords.

Alter Ego Fancy Dress, Dorset 

Appointments only for this old fashioned fancy dress shop that offers all the classics along with some skewball items. Costumes are good quality, none of that sweat-shop nylon and you’ll find every decade of the 20th and 21st century represented, along with Roman, Medieval and Tudor, national dress, pirates, cowboys, pumpkins. You can even dress up as a Christmas Pudding, which could be a good antidote to family angst.

Cotswold Costumes, Gloucestershire

The Cotswolds is full of party people like Kate Moss and Lily Allen who just love a spot of costume wear and Cotswold Costumes in Stroud is the go-to place. There are more than 3000 costumes for hire, including vintage and replica, era wear, pantomime outfits, specialist military costumes.

Express Yourself Costume Hire, Southampton, Hants

Huge range of theatrical costumes covering historical heroes, pop figures and everything in between. In the Historical Room you can dress up as Henry V111 or Nelson, Madonna, Elvis and the Bay City Rollers rub shoulders in the Funky Room. Goodwood Revival fanatics are covered with tea dresses, fur stoles, circular skirts, teddy boy jackets. It’s all going on here – become Agnetha in an Abba jumpsuit, or a Ghostbusters (with your own proton pack) even Olaf (the snowman in Frozen). Nothing phases the owner Maureen who once received a request from a woman in Singapore wanting to surprise her husband with a birthday gorillagram. Maureen delivered with a crate of bananas for good measure.

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