The SpareFoot team on Halloween 2011.

Halloween is around the corner, and costumes have become a topic of conversation around the office. Personally, I’m not a big costume guy, but I know many people who have a cache of costumes prepared for conventions, themed parties and LARPing (live action role playing). In the initial stages of costume acquisition, storage is simple. You hang the Spider-Man costume in the closet and tuck your foam swords neatly in the corner of your room.

But if you’re serious about your increasingly complex wardrobe, like freelance costume designer and  recreational cosplayer Kristina Leigh Howard, storage space will become a crucial issue. Not only do costumes take up a substantial amount of space, but so do the materials needed to make the costumes— reams of cloth, various glues and sewing materials.

As Kristina’s collection grew, clear plastic bins and specialty hangers began to occupy even more space in her home. Luckily, she found a simple solution to her problem in her local self-storage facility.

“Renting a commercial space was well worth getting my costumes, sewing supplies, fabrics, and vintage collection out of my basement (which has the tendency to get wet) and spare bedroom closet,” Kristina said.

Ideally, you’d have a closet in the house to store these costumes, props and materials; however, life isn’t always ideal. When renting your storage unit, try to imagine the size of a closet you’d need to store everything. You might only need a 5 x 5 unit, which will be the most affordable option. Check an online self-storage finder to compare prices and sizes to suit your needs.

To get a handle on the ideal storage conditions for preserving costumes, we spoke with Micah Lang from fine art storage and handling company Mana Contemporary. Because costumes are sensitive to air quality and climate, he recommended a climate-controlled unit.

“Since it’s fabric, you want to maintain an environment of 70 degrees (Farenheit) with 50% relative humidity,” Micah advised. He added that plastic hangers should be used to avoid the harmful effects from wood or wire hangers. These conditions will help protect costumes from mildew and pests, as well as preventing the fabric from becoming warped.

Before moving into storage, your costumes should be carefully prepped and cleaned. Fabric-based costumes should be completely laundered, and should be stored alongside a gentle liner, such as tissue paper. Helmets should be stored upright to prevent them from warping.

Blasters, swords, and shields should be kept at home to give the house a lighthearted armory-of-the-empire feel. But if you must keep them in storage, they should be neatly organized and placed in a separate bin. Of course, all these bins should be labeled to allow for the greatest ease of access.

With a newly rented climate-controlled storage unit, you can avoid having to buy the same materials over and over again, gain space to grow your costume collection, and easily access your costumes for events such as parties, Halloween and conventions.

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