By Kellie Hwang
For the Arizona Costumed Revelers, every day is Halloween.
The Meetup.com group was founded in June 2009 by folks who just couldn't get enough of the holiday, and decided they didn't need a set day telling them to put on a crazy costume. The group now has 132 members aged 18 to 70 from Gilbert, Glendale, Chandler, Scottsdale and other places.
“It gives you the ability to do something different than everyone else does,” said Chandler's Tatiana Fulsome-Maner, one of the group's organizers. “When you go to a party you put on an outfit and stand around, but you don't really learn a lot about people. If you show up as Elvis or a showgirl, people want to know more about you. You can express yourself and your talents.”
Members of the Arizona Costumed Revelers typically throw their own parties (which can mean just showing up in costume at a coffee shop) or meet at costumed events. Recently, members dressed sexy-style for the Phantasmagorical Cabaret at the Alwun House in Phoenix. And they've gotten gussied up for the Renaissance Festival and the alternative Santa bar crawl know as Santarchy and for movie openings such as the “Twilight” series and “Sherlock Holmes.”
The Revelers hope to take part in Phoenix's Matsuri: A Festival of Japan on Feb. 27-28, and the Brides of March Pub Crawl with the AZ Cacophony Society.
Sometimes they team with other costume-focused groups such as the Steamhub Steampunk Society Meetup group, a gathering of artists and costumers that focuses on a Victorian-meets-punk aesthetic.
“When I dress up, I feel a little more free and a little more outgoing,” said Lisa Reichman of Mesa. “It's just like when I was a little girl and used to dress up and prance in front of the mirror. It lets you get out of your normal, daily straight-laced mode.”
Onlookers' reactions vary, said Fulsome-Maner, from delight to confusion. Most of the time, though, she said people just laugh and ask to take pictures with the costumers.
Many members enjoy sewing and making their own costumes and often plan group trips to thrift and fabric stores, as well as workshops to help each other put together looks.
“It's really a creative outlet, and I like to sew, and there are others in the group who do metalwork, leatherwork and other things that require a lot of talent,” said Tim Maner, Tatiana's husband.
The group has found a strong following among those who see themselves as incredibly normal. Most say they don't go out to bars often, they stay home with their kids, they work 9-to-5 jobs and they live in the suburbs. But among others who like to dress in costumes from time to time, they've found a group of friends.
“We do a lot of socializing out at events, and it's really not exclusive to one type of personality,” said Fulsome-Maner.