Made in Chicagoland: Chicago Costume Company

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Costume Company started with one woman making elaborate costumes for a local theater company. Almost 40 years later, it's one of the city's go-to spots for anyone who likes to dress up.

"My mother taught me to sew when I was about six years old. I studied costume design at the Goodman Theatre School. I started my own business," said Mary Panayotou, owner.

That was in 1976. Panayotou never dreamed Chicago Costume would grow to sell hundreds of thousands of costumes a year. But she learned sometimes things fall into place when you least expect them to.

"Once I bought advertising in the Yellow Pages - something that's gone by the wayside now - people started calling me up," Panayotou said.

Today, customers connect with her online at and make their way into one of several storefronts.

"I'm going to use this for my Halloween costume because I'm going to get two wears out of it. But I'm actually buying it primarily for the birthday party," said Karen Culter, a customer.

The exhaustive inventory is comprised of manufactured accessories, makeup, mass-manufactured get-ups and the hand-crafted costumes Panayotou has been stitching for the last four decades. A custom commission starts at $500 and must be ordered months in advance.

"Or you can rent it. You can be that for a night, for a price," Panayotou said.

Although Halloween is a night for spooks and scares, don't be afraid to stop by her shop at the last minute. She never runs out of options.

"We'll be full. We'll be downstairs. We'll be open practically 24 hours," Panayotou said.
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