Could fancy dress shopping be almost as fun as the party itself?
With party season just around the corner, half an hour in a fancy dress shop would not only be a worthwhile pursuit but an entertaining one.
From cowboys to nurses, zombies to werewolves, any party shop worth its salt can help you become any alter-ego you desire.
And with an ever-increasing market for party wares, a one-stop-shop is just the ticket for all your festive needs.
Graham Brooks, who has worked at the Party Superstore in Sutton high street for 13 years, says the celebrations around festivals such as Hallowe’en are growing each year, and, with it, the demand for increasingly imaginative costumes.
He says: "Hallowe’en has become really big, people go in for the big American style celebrations for it now which we didn’t used to have in Britain.
"Clubs have special nights for Hallowe’en, people organise elaborate parties, and people go all out."
Graham says the shop caters for "any budget", with party-goers paying a visit to nab a £2 accessory or a £150 costume, and that people are willing to pay as they "take it very seriously".
Costumes range from the traditional - witches, clowns, teachers, police - to the more ominous for occasions like Hallowe’en, including vampires, teen werewolfs - another popular American export according to Graham - theatre macabre, black widows and undead cheerleaders.
Graham says that "accessories make the costume" and there is a vast array to choose from here too - outlandish wigs, ghoulish masks, contact lenses which give you lively luminous or dead dark eyes, fake scars, liquid latex skin, fangs, rotten teeth, gels which masquerade as scabs, spray-on blood - or some of the red stuff by the litre if you prefer.
"Anything you need to make yourself look dead and decaying, we will have it," says Graham reassuringly.
"Scene-setters" are also popular now for those wanting to decorate their house for a party. They provide a realistic backdrop which people can then add to.
So a standard living room can soon become home to gothic portraits, turn into a meat market of hanging human remains, look like a haunted mansion, or welcome coffin creatures.
Graham says: "People have started to do the outside of their homes now too for Hallowe’en. We sell tombstones they can stick in their garden."
He says animal heads are also popular throughout the year - especially horses’ heads - and that many requests people have are influenced by what is big in the media at that moment.
"When Pirates of the Caribbean first came out, everyone was holding pirate parties. They’re still popular, along with superheroes, horror and decades parties - which are our mainstay throughout the year. It’s a massive industry."
Cliff Lyons, manager at Jesters, in Upper High Street, Epsom, says one popular theme is "initial parties".
He says: "People have to go in a costume connected to the first letter of the host’s name. It can be anything.
"I had three guys come in recently who had a ‘P’ and no idea what to do. So I made them into the three little pigs."
Back at the Party Superstore, Graham says popular Christmas costumes include Santa, Mrs Santa, angels and elves, but that people can also visit the shop for any party decorations and basics they need, including coloured tablecloth and cutlery.
"If you’re having a party, we’re your first port of call because if we don’t have it here, we can tell you how to get it. We know parties inside out. If we don’t have a costume that fits, we can find the accessories with the same effect," says Graham, with a freaky baby wailing in the background in a tone so life-like it could be real.
Party Superstore also has shops in Croydon, Guildford, Harrow, Woking, and, most famously, in Clapham Junction. All items in the shops are for sale only.
Jesters also sells costumes and accessories and has shops in Croydon and Merstham.
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