Dressing is part of identity. Your choice of blouse or boot says something about who you are. Although we may not realize we're doing it, each of us wears a costume every day. Some say "working professional," others "fashionista," and they become a part of your persona, as much as your speech pattern or the way you walk.

On Halloween, culture flips the coin and we don costumes to become other beings.

Unfortunately, however, they're most often from big-box stores like Target or Party City, and that means they're usually poorly made with synthetic fibers like polyester. It's estimated to take between 20 and 200 years for polyester to decompose, so that Britney Spears outfit you wore circa 2000 is still polluting the trash heap it landed in after one night's wear. Congratulations.

Thankfully, there's another way to costume in Santa Fe: Costumes! Limited (1807 Second St., Ste. 100, 988-9501). The predominantly rental shop occupies a small, one-story adobe nestled in the lofts off Second Street (just past the Back Road Pizza lot), where it's been for 14 years. Owner Anne De May says people are more stoked than ever for the annual ghoulish celebration. "This year, what stood out to me is that Halloween started earlier than usual," she says. "The first of October people started coming in looking for costumes. I think there's an urge to party."

Start a conversation with a costume from your imagination. This medieval bird beats a generic M&M any day.
Start a conversation with a costume from your imagination. This medieval bird beats a generic M&M any day. | Thea Milinairé

De May's shop is packed with costume inspiration. Masks, props and garments from countless periods and styles pour from every corner; the collection she's amassed fills the building to the brim.

On a visit to Costumes! Limited, you won't find even one thin polyester package costume because, DeMay says, "We're not the mainstream costume environment; we don't do licensed products. We're more individualized." And since the bulk of the shop is rental, your costume won't end up in the trash come Nov. 1.

The overflowing collection is organized somewhat thematically. Want to be an astronaut? Head to the space section. A dapper dude? Search the racks (and racks) of suits and tuxedos. The shop also features rich silk skirts, billowy princess blouses, delicate avian masks and furry mammalian faces, an array of wings, an entire room of shoes, helmets, pirate tops, loincloths, eye patches, bear onesies and more. Costumes! Limited also has accessories for sale, like theatrical makeup, spectacles, wigs and hats.

De May's eye for detail and texture comes from her time studying textiles and fashion, with a focus on costumes, at the University of Hamburg, Germany. "We can make people happy, we can make people be different," she says. "We can make people just not have to be themselves."

Costumes! Limited is not only the greenest way to have the most individual (and raddest) costume, but a wonderful jumping-off point if you're hard-pressed for ideas. De May uses her skills to create varying levels of custom outfits. You can choose one item from the extensive selection and the staff can help you build a character from there. "It's very rewarding, even those that come with no ideas. When we get to it and they get in the right costumes, they just light up," she tells SFR. "It's really great to see someone get into character."

And if you're worried about price points at a customized joint, De May is one step ahead of you. "We priced out a pirate with all the accessories through a big box vendor, and it's more than renting one," she says. Basic costumes run around $45, though more complicated versions rise to someplace in the neighborhood of $90. DeMay says the most fully realized ensembles run about $250.

Still, dressing up as someone else is therapeutic; a time to let your inner kid run free. Or maybe your motives are less existential, and you're simply looking to scare the piss out of somebody. Whatever your drive may be, this is a holiday about letting your unicorn mane down for the night. Make sure you do it wearing an environmentally friendly ensemble. Then you're a real hero.