Extreme Costumes Wins Halloween Every Year

We caught up with the founder of the local costume company.
Tom DePetrillo. Photograph by Chris Vaccaro.

A knight’s legs are stacked upright in the center of the room; his head and torso are strewn on the floor nearby — and he’s not alone. Tom DePetrillo’s workshop is a haphazard graveyard of tangled limbs and bodies. But this macabre scene isn’t as sinister as it seems.

“Not everyone can claim to have a giant robot arsenal,” says DePetrillo with a laugh.

DePetrillo, owner and founder of Extreme Costumes, walks around his company’s studio where team members design and build extravagant costumes, from ten-foot-tall giant Transformers suits and video game knights to pairs of angelic wings.

He passes cluttered workbenches where his small staff measures and cuts foam and pours bubblegum-pink latex into molds. His team is composed of six specialists in a variety of fields, from sewing to painting.

“I don’t know where I’d be without them,” DePetrillo says.

Upstairs, his North Kingstown office overlooks the studio. A pair of golden wings lies in the middle of the floor, and a battle axe leans against the wall, handle adorned with red leather and tufts of fur. The fifty-one-year-old costume designer leans way back in his chair, his Red Skull T-shirt stretching across his chest. He scratches his beard (which is suspiciously similar to Tony Stark’s from Iron Man) and recounts his childhood.

He was always a kid who, in his own words, “liked Halloween a little too much.” As he grew older, his costumes became increasingly more elaborate, and he began to win contests every Halloween. He entered more competitive events, eventually earning cash prizes that numbered in the thousands.

“My peak winnings in Vegas at one point were $33,000 in one week. Once, I stacked two costume contests in one day and got $12,500,” he says. “I started to realize that I was making enough to set out on my own.”

DePetrillo has been his own boss since he was twenty-five, owning and managing a liquor store, pizza shop and car wash. Each business was largely a success, but he didn’t feel fulfilled. Finally, after recreationally making costumes for his entire adult life, he decided to turn it into a full-time career.

The risk paid off.

Extreme Costumes has exploded in popularity within the cosplay, costume and Comic Con niche, generating revenue by selling custom costumes, making sponsored appearances at conventions and occasionally entering contests. DePetrillo and his work appear all around the world, capturing headlines and winning prizes and admiration of convention-goers.

“There’s nothing like 10,000 people watching and cheering for you,” says DePetrillo. “Inspiring people and making them happy, nothing is quite as rewarding.” facebook.com/extremecostumes

Categories: Art, Current
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