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Q&A Dressing a dream: Billy De Herrera has fun, tests the limits of costume making

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Posted: Friday, October 29, 2010 8:14 am

Billy De Herrera is what you might imagine a costume maker to be. Not only was he babysat in a theater’s costume shop, he is imaginative, a performer and knows his fabrics. Lately, he’s been busy making costumes for Costumes of Lodi, but that doesn’t mean he can’t find time to plan his own Halloween costume.

Q: How did you start sewing?

A: My grandma and Aunt Ruby both sewed. Ruby was a wig maker, too, and I used to watch her. When I was a kid, I got tired of making all the hobby kits at the store ... . I  made my first costume when I was 13. A woman in the neighborhood was having a party for her daughter and she asked, “Can you make a clown suit?” I had just taken home economics.

I made it, and that summer I was Silly Billy, the clown ... . I was the richest little kid in Lafayette.

Q: What are some examples of costumes you sell and rent?

A: We have Prince’s “Purple Rain” costume, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, a crab, Mae West, pirates, frog prince, Santa and the Easter bunny. We have costumes for the Pink Ladies from “Grease” and poodle skirts. We have pilgrims; Buddy the Elf has been requested a lot.

Q: What is yo-ur favorite part of designing and creating a costume?

A: Finishing. Finishing them and getting paid is nice (laughs). I like conceptualizing: What fabric can I use? What can I do instead?

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: The lack of resources in the area. We go to Los Angeles a couple of times a year to buy fabric.

Q: If someone came in with all the money you needed, what would be your dream costume to create?

A: I like period costumes. -Something from “The Tudors,” the show, probably.

Q: What’s the strangest costume you’ve ever been asked to make?

A: A slab of bacon. I’m working on it now.

Q: How did you start working here at Costumes in Lodi?

A: I was reading the paper and I saw that Diane was opening a quilt fabric store. I thought, I know fabrics, I’ll help her with that. One day, she said she wanted to change (the store a little). I said, “If I had the chance to open a business, I’d open a costume shop.” ... When Diane gets an idea to do something, she does it all out.

Q: Do you make your own Halloween costumes?

A: Every year I make my costume on the day of Halloween. I finished the last costume for a friend at 10 on Halloween night. We were going to Woodbridge Crossing and I made mine really fast before we left, and I won the Halloween costume contest.

Q: What are you going to be this year?

A: This year, I’ve been kicking it around. I think I’m going to be a pirate.

Q: What’s your goal for the future?

A: To have a wholesale costume company. We need to have something coming out of Lodi like that.

Q: Why do people need costumes all year long? What kind of events are there?

A: There are all sorts of parties: ’80s parties, white trash parties, masquerade balls, fundraisers.

Q: How many costumes do you have in stock?

A: Hundreds. With all the ones we’ve purchased, there are thousands. We offer a variety of sizes, and especially for real-size people.

Q: How much does it c  ost to rent a costume?

A: About $30 to $60. The huge mascots are about $80 a day.

Q: What is the best costume you’ve ever made?

A: I’ve made a lot of showgirl costumes for performance, some that are 12-feet tall. I made one that had a peacock fan that had fishing poles as the base.

I also enjoyed how the crab came out.

Q: In school you were heavily involved in theater arts and you won Lodi Idol a few years ago. Are you still performing?

A: I am. I was in “Bad Seed” with Changing Faces. And I was in Lodi Musical Theater’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Hutchins Street Square.

All in all, I’ve probably performed in 50 shows.

Q: What are your plans for Halloween?

A: We’re going to a cemetery north of Stockton. It’s an 1800s cemetery and they’re doing a seance.

Q: What is the most requested costume?

A: Pirates. But around here, we get a lot of cowboys and Indians, too.

Costumes in Lodi is located at 527 W. Lodi Ave. For more information, visit www.costumesinlodi.com or call 369-7343.

Contact Lodi Living editor Lauren Nelson at laurenn@lodinews.com.

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