streettalk (2007-43)

Ramona Didier, owner of Big Don, The Costumier

Street Talk

With Halloween around the corner, is this the busiest season for Big Don, The Costumier in the Old City?

This is the most intense season, especially the week of Halloween, because Knoxville is a last-minute town. I am busy all year, though. I costume theatrical productions from fall until June for high and middle schools. I am already having orders for turkey costumes for Thanksgiving, and Victorian-era costumes for Christmas.

What are the most popular Halloween costumes? Are they more traditional, or do people want something extreme and original?

The majority of people up to age 35 have no historical reference. They gain their knowledge from movies, TV, and computer games, so the most asked-for costumes are pirates, Queen Elizabeth, gangsters, licensed celebrity wannabes, and sexy costumes. With the more mature adults I am able to costume them from head to toe from any historical era and use my creativity, which gives me joy.

Do you ever have costume requests that shock you?

No, Iâ’ve been in the costume business 30 years. I am way beyond being shocked. At the same time as the Worldâ’s Fair, there was a guy who wanted to be a slave, and we had to measure the elastic for the leather thong. That was the first and last time. I will never get myself in that situation again.

If people want to use your service, can they just walk in and browse around?

Now through Halloween, they will be able to walk in but they should have three ideas in mind, or three categories, such as a time period, character, or personality. I prefer they call first for appointments and give me their preferences. However, the closer to Halloween, the phone is busier and itâ’s harder for them to get through, so their only option is to come in. At this point they could possibly be here up to an hour. They will be sure to see friends here and enjoy socializing. At this time of year, itâ’s a fun place to be.

How often do you get dressed up and walk around town in disguise?

I am often in disguise as a gorilla, a clown, or an old lady as I deliver singing telegrams and balloons and do childrenâ’s birthday parties. I provided a Charlie Chapman impersonator and wore a Holly-Go-Lightly hat and large round sunglasses for the opening of Regal Cinemas Riviera Theater, but people still recognized me. I also wore a red wig and mod coat a couple of years ago in the Old City and no one recognized me. I have the most fun disguising other people for events with people they work with, and yet no one recognizes them. â"Greg Wilkerson

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