Whether you want to channel that rum-swilling pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, own a piece of movie history as an investment, or just be the center of envy at your next Halloween party with something distinctly original, it's not as hard to acquire Hollywood costumes and accessories as you might think. Not only is there an active community of movie lovers and memorabilia collectors on the Internet who can assist your search, but studios frequently offload items in their wardrobe warehouses to make room for newer creations.
Put the word out to everyone you know who may have a connection to the entertainment industry that you're looking for movie costumes. Even if it seems like a remote thread--your nextdoor neighbor's barber's roommate who went to high school with Meryl Streep's dog-sitter--don't be shy about asking. One connection can usually lead to another.
Join online forums of individuals who are as passionate about movies as you are. MoviePropForum.com, for instance, has a wealth of experts to share tips on how to track down specific items, announcements about upcoming auctions, recommendations on how much you should pay and advice on determining whether that pricey gown worn by Penelope Cruz is the real deal or a knockoff.
Bookmark websites that specialize in acquiring and selling movie costumes. A sample list of reputable companies can be found in Resources below.
Write a courteous and professional letter to an actor's manager or representative and ask what happens to the clothes worn in past movies. Agent information can be found through websites such as the Internet Movie Database (http://www.imdb.com) and Who Represents (http://www.whorepresents.com).
Visit the souvenir shops in venues that do back lot movie tours such as Universal Studios, Warner Brothers and Paramount. They'll occasionally sell costumes and accessories worn by minor characters. Ask about this if they don't have any on display. Let them know what you're looking for; they may be able to refer you to someone who can handle your inquiry.
Stay alert for studio auctions. These will be listed in the classifieds, in trade magazines such as "Hollywood Reporter" and "Variety" and on websites such as popeater.com. If you're into social networking, start a thread and ask your new connections to let you know if they hear about upcoming events where film costumes are on the block.
Collecting costumes can be an expensive hobby, especially if you're only interested in big-name stars. You may want to borrow a page from savvy collectors of trading cards who routinely pick up rookie cards at a low price and then just hold on to them until the player's worth--and the value of his card--has increased.
Only deal with legitimate companies that provide authentication of the merchandise they sell. The alternative to this is someone who was involved with the actual production and can attest that it was worn by a star or cast member.
Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.