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 email@example.com.