There are all sorts of reasons you might need to consult the services of an establishment that hires out fancy dress costumes. Of course there are the two obvious reasons: that you're attending a fancy dress party or part of a performance of some kind. But this sort of rental service may also be useful to you if you're involved in some kind of light espionage and you need a disguise, if you're trying to impress a new partner who might have a thing for say, gladiators, if you're hosting a children's party and you can't afford a clown or if you've lost a bet with someone and you're going to have to compete with them in a marathon as the back half of a pantomime horse.
And it's likely that these reasons, all of which I've come across within my own circle of friends – and yes it did work out with the gladiator couple, they later had a themed wedding – aren't even the strangest that the people who work in fancy dress, or costume hire shops have heard. It takes all sorts of folks to make the world and some of them enjoy re-enacting battles, some of them play cowboys and Indians on the weekend, some of them like to act out travel stories – Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat is a classic - and some of them are just plain eccentric.
So, if these needs, or others, take you, it's important to know where in London you can acquire the fancy dresses of your choice.
Angels is probably one of the best known costume hirers. They do pretty much EVERYTHING, including hiring out whole sets of costumes, costumes for kids in all shapes and sizes and even costumes for pets. And if you're a bit embarrassed about going in and asking for what you want they have a website where you can just place an order and purchase rather than hire. One of the reasons why Angels is one of the best known costumiers is that they work with the film and TV industries as well, they've clothed Dr. Who and the cast from Titanic, and that's just for starters, and the team who make the costumes to the stars also make the costumes that the rest of us can hire. So there's a chance you could hire something famous. Just visiting their epic collection is an entertaining outing in itself.
Angels is in the heart of the west end: 119 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8AE.
As well as being able to hire outfits made for the screen, Londoners are also able to hire outfits designed for the stage. The National Theatre make their vast collection of props and costumes available to the public at their Kennington storehouse. These are excellent quality hires, as they've been made by the National's own costume staff for past productions. They have some impressive armour and mail, ideal for military re-enactments, plenty of peasant costumes if you're shooting period crowd scenes of having a themed wedding, and an interesting collection of animal suits. You can explore the National's collection at Chichester House, Kennington Park Business Estate, 1-3 Brixton Road, SW9 6DE, by appointment only.
The Costume Studio is another costume hire store with costumes that were originally created for professional production, in their case mostly TV. So if you're planning an event with a TV theme then this is where you can find the real deal for a reasonable price, it starts at about £65 for a week's hire. The Costume Studio is located at 159-161 Balls Pond Rd, N1 4BG
For something more original try Prangsta Costumiers, where you can place a bespoke order that will be created for you – however outlandish is the promise – and which you can then hire. This business started in 1998 and since then they've made a lot of outfits, so their own collection has grown as well. If you're planning a fancy dress event but you want it to be a surprise event also then Prangsta also has a mobile wing called the Burlesque Boudoir which you can arrange to have brought to your party. No one will be able to use the genius excuse of 'coming as themselves' then! Prangsta address is 304 New Cross Rd, SE14 6AF.