You walk into the Boo La La Costume store and Laurie Sluchinski is already giving you the fun makeover you probably deserve — at least in her mind. Sluchinski starts with the face, the way you walk, how you talk and who you walk in the store with.
Before you can browse through the wigs, hats, and close to 5,000 costumes in this 2nd Street store in North Vancouver, she has a pretty good idea about what you really need. You may, for example, be a lowly office worker, but if Laurie senses a regal air about you, she will transfigure you to be a Cleopatra, if not Queen Elizabeth. For someone who comes across as wild and fun, she is likely to suggest you change into warrior king.
The shy and reserved become monks. Serious gentlemen are transformed into Al Capone or dressed up in Hawaiian shirts. Many who walked into an office dress have walked away in 1970s disco costumes. The transformation is sudden and remarkable, she says. “They become taller and their shoulders are broad and hips start to shake. The dress just releases the fun, and you get to be silly and outrageous, and read to party,” she says.
Bringing out the fun, hidden side of people is what helped Laurie become a makeover specialist with a preternatural instinct for knowing what people would look good in. While sales and rentals are brisk at Halloween, the season to transform is all year round, she says. She caters to theatre companies too.
The summer brings in people who want to dress silly for a party or a summer concert. She recently gave a complete makeover to a young acting aspirant, who walked in looking like a “brand ambassador for Lululemon” and walked out as a possessed Raggedy Anne doll.
“She wanted to look scary and vintage so I dressed up her up that way, and it was fun to see her body language change. Once the clothes came on her body, she just became that character with that really creepy look,” she says, laughing.
A fashion designer by profession, Laurie bought the store from the previous owner in 2005. It was previously called Carol’s Costume Corner, named after its owner Carol Ahern. Laurie changed the name Bo La La when she bought it. “It is just so much fun to say, it just made me smile, and it was like I gave myself a present,” she says.
But after 14 years of bringing joy to people, she says it’s time for her to seek another adventure in life. She tried to sell it but was surprised to see there wasn’t enough interest. Those who were interested didn’t have the capital or the background to buy this type of store, and for some the economics of retail is not sustainable.
The store will be closing in early November. Laurie says she is excited for what the future holds for her, but she is far from anxious about it.
“I gave this store my heart but I am now ready to embrace the unknown. I have no clue what I will be doing few years from now but for someone who knows the magic of transformation, I am excited about it,” she says.