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Jess West Costumes: Unmasking Success

Writer / Matt Keating
Photographer / Brian Brosmer

Jess West, a popular Indianapolis costume designer, has turned a childhood hobby into a successful business.

West gets a good deal of business from the Geist Reservoir area, where she is designing costumes to promote Pro Fly Boarding at Geist this summer. She works with Michael Guajardo, owner and operator of Pro Fly Boards.

The flyboarding is often seen from Bella Vita.

“I’ve started making costumes with LED lights for their Pro Fly Boarding at night, and I’m very excited about that,” West said in her home, where she designs the costumes.

West also designs matching outfits for several Geist residents.

“I make matching outfits for little girls and their dolls,” she said. “I make spring outfits that are bunnies and chicks for the kids. I have been a big hit with Geist area moms. I’ve made a spring flower costume and a bunny costume so far for Easter this coming year. I hope this can become a trend for little girls and their matching doll clothing and costumes.”

West has two employees. She also designs for Christmas, New Year’s, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Gen Con, Indy’s gaming convention and Pop Con. Her Chewbacca costume is extremely popular with Star Wars fans at Gen Con. It comes complete with a sound system that roars. She has also designed Gizmo from the movie “Gremlins,” “The Grinch”, and several of the Batman villains that appear on one mask as a mashup costume.

“When you have an audience of 60,000 people at Gen Con, it’s a great place to promote your costumes,” West said. “I loved the looks on people’s faces at Gen Con when I went as a 7-foot, four-inch Chewbacca. I had five orders for Pop Con, Comic Con and Gen Con six months out. I have been receiving orders from people from Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Broad Ripple and Greenwood areas. I also get costume orders from all over Indiana, and across the U.S.” 

West has orders for ball gowns for a charity ball in the fall at The Paramount Theater in Anderson, and she has designed costumes for Irvington Halloween and Christmas events and charities.

“I’ve been lucky to get a lot of recommended business,” West said. “I get a lot of requests for what I like to call ‘festival ready’ wear, which is clothes for music festivals.”

She has also made vintage costumes for Burning Man.

“I do primarily gain business based on word of mouth and various articles that have been written to showcase my work,” West said. “The Festival Ready Jess West is actually a costume clothing line that I started. I have a website that sells clothes to music festival goers and vintage costumes for places such as Burning Man.”

She will also be an on-site seamstress for a ballet production company.

“I am going to be revamping vintage costumes to sell to festival goers such as those who attend Burning Man,” West said. “The costumes are from a range of time periods dating back to the 1940s and require a little TLC, jewels, mirrors, added fabrics and maybe a few LED lights.”

Burning Man is the most adventurous of festivals as it showcases artwork, unique costumes and eccentric groups of people who come to dress as wildly as they can, according to West.

“The sky is the limit and I hope to create some of the most vibrant, psychedelic, eye-catching pieces that any Burners have ever seen,” West said. “I hope to bring their imaginations to life and display their creative minds and expressions through my costumes.”

West, a 2002 Martinsville High School graduate, can make any kind of scary, sexy or funny costume her customers ask for.

“I have made a lot of costumes that start off scary on the exterior, but reveal themselves to be beautiful on the inside,” West said. “I once created a mummy costume I wore that ripped off into an Egyptian Princess.”

She also created a gigantic werewolf costume with rotating legs, chicken wire and PVC pipe.

“I was at an Alt. 103 Radio Halloween event, and people only recognized me as a 14-foot werewolf for a few hours,” West said. “I finally got out of the costume as Red Riding Hood underneath and people loved it. I enjoy making mash-up and transition costumes that turn from one thing into another.”

She also made 30 costumes for servers for a Maxim Magazine event at the 100th running of The Indianapolis 500.

“That was huge,” West said. “I had a lot of fun doing that.”

West has also done a couple of commercials as Chewbacca for the Nissan Shadeland dealership and is currently creating a costume for a horror short film being shot in Texas.

“I have been able to maintain a good rapport with my customers, and I get a lot of repeat business,” West said. “I also know how to stick within a budget and create a costume that is exactly what people want.”

When people Google “costume-maker Indianapolis,” her name comes up as number one in the search.

“I can make anything, and I’m busy all the time,” West said. “I think if you work hard at something you love, you will be a success and have a lot of joy in what you do.”

For more info and to see samples of West’s work, visit Jesswestcostumes.com.

About Matt Keating

Matt Keating is an instructional assistant and tutor at Amy Beverland Elementary and a freelance writer. He previously worked for The Indianapolis Star, NUVO and Montgomery Zukerman (MZD) Public Relations.

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