Considering how many of our fellow New Yorkers treat every day as though it were Halloween, the panic and desperation the big night inspires is downright puzzling. But the truth is, no matter how "so not creative" you claim to be, pairing a ratty hooded sweatshirt with CHiPs-style aviators and calling yourself the Unabomber isn't going to cut it. Not to worry. Whether you are facing a frantic, eleventh-hour makeover or merely need a final flourish for a costume you've been honing for months, these shops will ensure that you leave the party with the most candy.
10 East 8th Street; 212-254-1699
Disco queens and club kids may peruse the racks like it's Neiman Marcus, but for the rest of us, this boutique is a gold mine of Halloween opportunities. It's Field who gives the stars of Sex and the City and Spin City their sultry Gotham flair, and her store is stocked with similarly risqué ensembles for girls (sequined tube tops, $28) and girly men (silver lamé evening gowns, $84; matching boa, $45). Naughty trick-or-treaters may want to slip on a red-and-white velvet Santa's helper suit ($150, with matching fur hat and thong). Downright trampy ones can squeeze their way into rubber nurses' frocks ($245) tight enough to make even Carrie Bradshaw blush.
19 West 21st; 212-627-5194
If you're still relying on your high- school hockey mask, get some monster cred at this Halloween emporium. Over 3,000 rubber and latex masks (starting at $18), from Darth Maul to salivating werewolves and bloodthirsty vampires, line the walls. Downstairs, Victorian ball gowns hang alongside Austin Powers's blue-velvet suit. (Dr. Evil and child-size Mini-Me also available.) Most are rentable ($35-$700). If you're met with a line of fellow procrastinators zigzagging past the haunted house out front, cab it to Halloween Adventure (104 Fourth Avenue; 212-673-4546), where you'll find a similar selection (Mike Tyson, Queen Mum, bug-eyed-alien heads) for sale only.
412 East 9th Street; 212-529-6790
Air-guitarists amped up from too many episodes of Behind the Music can come to this East Village atelier to live out their glam-rock dreams. Surrounded by framed thank-yous from bands like Van Halen and White Zombie, owner Aldo Kleyn assures customers that he can make all their buttery-leather fantasies come true, whether it's a bikini for Jennifer Lopez, a belt for Xena, or a Prada-esque Matrix ensemble with a $2,800 price tag for an adoring Keanu fan (now that's scary). Everything is made to order. A pair of his trademark pants take over a week, but he can whip up a leather Zorro mask ($20), a bikini top with red and yellow flames ($85), or a feathered snakeskin choker ($35) on just a few days notice.
486 Broadway; 212-343-1476
Urban Cowboys and Indians will think they've stumbled onto to the set of Young Guns 2. This shop is the city's best resource for authentic Navajo headdresses (from $625), shiny rodeo-fringe shirts ($125), and alligator boots (from $750), spurs not included. They've outfitted the cast of Annie Get Your Gun, salsa diva La India, and Oasis' Noel Gallagher, who fancied a regal $1,700 headdress with feathers to the floor. Customers without record deals can head to the second level where a pass through the Stetsons ($25 to $70), holster sets ($75), and Daniel Boone raccoon hats ($18) will turn even the feeblest of city slickers into a Marlboro man.
Pearl River Mart
277 Canal Street; 800-878-2446
To adopt one of Madonna's Eastern-inspired personalities, start here. The kimonos ($39.59) and silk Chinese dresses ($90) will make a geisha out of any willing material girl. If you have a different video in mind, head to Om Saree Palace (134 East 27th Street; 212-532-5620) for magenta and forest-green embroidered sarongs ($55), short-sleeved "choli" blouses ($20), and an array of caftans in muted pastels ($35-$85.95). Bindis for the forehead come $3-$5 for a pack; those who still haven't gotten a navel ring can check out their selection of jeweled belly buttons ($5-$7).
Lee's Mardi Gras
400 West 14th Street; 212-645-1888
Long before the meatpacking district became ground zero for pricey boutiques and moules-frites, Lee's was supplying size-15 stilettos and taffeta gowns to drag queens -- and the occasional investment banker. From breast forms ($5-$400) to hip pads ($39.98), Marilyn wigs ($40-$200), and sweater sets, Lee's will turn you into the girl you've always wanted to be. To accommodate the extra traffic and to celebrate their thirtieth -- which just happens to be October 31 -- the boutique will be open on Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.