The Costume & Bridal Barn in Hudson, Michigan has more than 8,000 handmade cos­tumes available for rent. Madeleine Miller | Col­legian

Dozens of rubbery faces gawk at you from above, their faces frozen in an array of grotesque con­tor­tions. There’s a gray man with three eyes, three mouths, and three noses; a classic, but par­tic­u­larly uncomely witch; an extrater­res­trial creature vaguely rem­i­niscent of a sea monkey; and the pitiful visage of an oaf who appears to have had too close an encounter with a hand blender.

Lower your gaze and it will come to rest on the bright and kindly coun­te­nance of Brenda Wright, wel­coming you to the Costume & Bridal Barn in Hudson, Michigan, about a 25-minute drive from Hillsdale. Ele­gance meets fantasy at the one-stop shop, which offers costume rentals, wedding gown sales and rentals, tuxedo rentals, alter­ation ser­vices, and more.

Wright learned to sew in school and never stopped. She taught herself to sew just about any­thing, never relying on pat­terns to execute her projects.

“It just made sense. I started thinking about what the results would be if I did this or that, and then I just took it and ran with it,” she said. “I can do just about any­thing. I do alter­ations, I’ve made clothes from scratch.”

As her children grew up, she created cos­tumes for them to wear on hol­idays and to school events, and soon friends and com­munity members began requesting pieces. When she lost her job as a factory sec­retary, she decided to start her own business, launching the Costume Barn in 1988. Four years later she added a bridal section, and the Costume & Bridal Barn was born.

Wright orig­i­nally worked out of her husband’s pole barn.

“I would hang stuff on his tractors, and he would say ‘What are you doing?’ and I would say, ‘I don’t have enough room so I’m using yours!’” she said.

Once she had saved enough money to erect a space of her own, her husband Dan Wright built her a shop at the edge of their property in Hudson.

“I took the square footage she was using in the barn and doubled it, and then added 30 percent, and shortly after she moved in, she had it full!” he said.

Wright esti­mates she now has over 8,000 handmade or care­fully curated cos­tumes available for rent. Her costume room is filled wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-floor with a vast array of getups, astounding in both variety and quantity. From Disney char­acters to vintage ensembles, each costume is made of quality material and includes the com­plete suite of acces­sories needed to produce an authentic and impressive effect.

Wright derives inspi­ration from current movies, but also enjoys fash­ioning cre­ations of her own imag­i­nation. Some­times she’ll stumble upon a piece — a hat or a mask — and design a costume to accompany it. Savvy and inno­v­ative, she often uses mate­rials from unex­pected sources. When her husband managed a factory that pro­duced con­vertible tops, she incor­po­rated the leftover scraps of cloth into her cos­tumes.  

“Whatever material I’ve got, I will make some­thing out of it,” she said.

A shelf full of look­books show­cases her work, her children and grand­children mod­eling her mas­ter­pieces. Her favorite, a peacock, is striking even in pho­to­graph. A lush cascade of plumage descends from a waistband to the ground, each bril­liant feather hand-sewn into the tail. Wright rents out four iter­a­tions of the Santa suit: velvet, cotton, cor­duroy, and plush. In the costume room she stores a knight’s suit of armor, which she esti­mates 50 men have donned to propose mar­riage.

The bridal portion of Wright’s shop is yet another trove of quality and unique attire, offering a selection of elegant wedding gowns in all styles. Vintage, con­signment, and new, Wright’s dresses are available at every price point. Costume & Bridal Barn is a con­ve­nient shopping outlet for prospective brides, offering custom porcelain, silk, and fresh floral arrange­ments and a bevy of dec­o­ration rentals including card boxes, can­de­labras, pillars, lace and netting, lattice walls, and free-standing cur­tains.

County res­ident Fred Eisen­hower recently rented a tuxedo from the Costume & Bridal Barn, and was astounded by the variety of its offerings.

“It just looks like a simple pole barn from the outside, but it’s quite a unique place,” he said. “If you want to dress up in a costume, she’s got it there. I don’t know any other place like it.”

Wright says prudent business deci­sions are the reason for the longevity of her enter­prise. Because she owns her building and its con­tents, Costume & Bridal Barn was able to weather the 2008 recession with aplomb and remains one of the few per­manent costume shops in the area. Wright rel­ishes the freedom of self-employment, explaining that if she ever finds herself weary of stitching, she simply sets it aside for a time.

Dan Wright said it’s been “amazing” watching the growth of his wife’s business.

“I’ve seen her go from working out of a garage to now having 2,100 square feet of wall-to-wall cos­tumes and dresses. I see her put in so many hours.”

But her hard work is not without reward.

“Every costume has a story,” she said.