In a garish purple- and turquoise-striped building across from an auto body shop on Northeast Glisan Street, the heads of old Popeye and Olive Oyl sit on a high shelf.
There are Marie Antoinette, an Old West saloon girl, wedding and flapper dresses, cowboy garb, pirate blouses, a big yellow bird suit that's definitely not Big Bird, beaver and pink bunny costumes, monks' robes, togas, Renaissance formal wear and military uniforms. And the shop once made a tuxedo for a parrot that was best man at a wedding.
The 1940s-style costumes from Romeo and Juliet hang next to the counter, just returned from a school production.
But the clown garb sits mostly unused, having become recently unpopular.
The sign lit by small, old-timey bulbs reads "Helen's Pacific Costumers." In one form or another, this little costume store, opened in 1890, is one of the oldest retail businesses in the city. According to store lore, it's been woman-owned for all of its 127 years.
Inside are carefully stitched pieces for dozens of theater productions and all manner of parties as well as mascot duties, all available for rent.
The Helen for whom the current shop is named married into the theater-shop family. Here's the official account from the store's website: "In 1936, Al [Learman] meets Helen Brickman on a blind date. One week later they marry. Al celebrates the marriage with his friends, leaving Helen at home. After two days, he returns to his new wife. She was livid and he never touches alcohol again for the rest of his life."
Helen died in 1991, leaving the business to her friend, Pam Monette. But after 26 years, Monette is planning to sell of the wares and the real estate at the end of August.
The volunteers who mind the shop for the four days a week that it's open are desperately trying to keep the collection together. But that, they say, requires raising $200,000.
The rows upon rows of costumes overflow the building. Out back are a shipping container, two tool sheds and a Winnebago filled with costumes.
"It just breaks my heart to think of all these costumes being sold," says Jay Lieber, one of the volunteers. "I'm trying to save the costumes. Every day in this place, it's magic."