In 2008, art photographer and fashion enthusiast Esther Dunaway was renting a parking space for her 1972 Volkswagen van at Wildflower Village, the former motel/art studio complex on West Fourth Street. She asked owner Pat Campbell-Cozzi if she could host a yard sale to sell some vintage and custom-made garments she’d been collecting. Campbell-Cozzi said no, but encouraged Dunaway to open a small clothing shop at the complex. PolyEsther’s Costume Boutique stayed at Wildflower for three years, then moved to midtown, where it became a mainstay for Burner fashions, costume rentals, creative alterations, makeup and accessories. Dunaway plans to close up shop on March 15, citing disagreements with her landlord and a desire to focus more on fashion design than retail management. She’s hosting a farewell party at the store, 655 S. Virginia St., March 9, 11 a.m. until night time.
How did you get into the business of selling Burner fashions?
I always loved costuming, and I always loved clothes. I have been hustling vintage clothing since before high school and dressing people for photo shoots. … People started asking me, “Esther, you sew. I need you to make me something for Burning Man.” … Then I started working at Unique Boutique up in Truckee, … and [owner Viviane Sabol] gave me a whole bunch of stuff that wasn’t selling and said, “Make something wonderful out of it,” so I fixed it up and took it back.
Tell me about a highlight or two from your years in midtown.
We had one of the fashion writers for British Vogue come in and say that she loved us, the only Burner girl dressed in Burberry—hilarious! … Maid Marian came in from Burning Man, and we did a jacket for her and her gal. They had just been to Paris, and the jacket had an Eiffel Tower on the back with LED lights around it.
You’re closing your brick-and-mortar shop, but some parts of your business will stay active, right?
I don’t feel inspired by the retail portion of it. … I want to start working more on wardrobe services and doing the rentals and have a really great online shop. I can do free deliveries in town and meet people to do their alterations. And I still want to do a sewing internship program. … We’ve had probably 10 amazing interns over the years, all sorts of people that wanted to do something more with sewing or costuming. I’ve had the state of Nevada approach me to run an industrial sewing program. That would create so many jobs. Right now, there a huge deficit of trained sewing professionals in the state, and there’s at least five to 10 companies in this area that need them.
No, they make office chairs and patio furniture and linens, big-machine stuff.
What can people expect between now and March 15, when you close?
We’re open regular store hours, and we’ve got everything half off, even our killer, expensive rental stuff is just amazing prices. … I’m bringing droves of stuff out of my back room and out of my sewing room. I’ve got antique sewing machines.