East Finchley landmark fancy dress shop to shut after 25 years

A “landmark” fancy dress shop in East Finchley is closing its doors after 25 years of transforming Hollywood stars and residents into anything from nuns to gladiators.

Deborah and David Handford who have run Culture Vultures in the High Road for eight years have been unable to find a buyer for the business as they go into retirement.

It will now be sold as a retail outlet.

Originally the shop was in Muswell Hill before moving to East Finchley 25 years ago, under a previous owner.

Mrs Handford said: “It’s not what we wanted. If we were young we’d carry on.”

The couple began as customers and then Mrs Handford worked altering the shop’s stock for eight years.

When Mr Handford left work in a bank after 30 years, they seized the opportunity to take it over full time.

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They made many improvements and developed a cult following.

Now scores of devoted customers will have to travel a long way to find a service of the same quality.

East Finchley Cllr Alison Moore said: “This kind of very personal business is exactly what makes East Finchley special. It will be sadly missed.”

Over the years the shop has catered for theatre schools, London marathon runners, famous actors and film stars, and TV programmes such as The One Show and GMTV.

“We’ve had a lot of fun here,” said Mr Handford. “One of the funniest moments was when a lady in her 80s came in for a nun’s outfit, and came back the next day to have the wimple (headdress) fitted.

“It’s also quite funny when people come in at the last minute for an outfit and go straight out of the shop dressed as a Viking.”

Enduring party favourites have been 70s and 80s kits, gladiator outfits and “recession-proof” accessories such as hats, wigs and face paints.

Customers could once choose from 40 different animal costumes, 12 of which are still for sale as the shop clears its stock.

The owners themselves always preferred “low key” party outfits.

“When we go out we don’t go in something big and ostentatious because it would upstage the hosts and hostesses,” said Mrs Handford.

She said she would miss creating unique Beefeater, Red Indian and Victorian costumes - but “not the washing and the ironing”.

After the sale the couple will go on holiday and start making plans for their retirement.