Moms, grandmoms hanging by thread as costumes sell out SEW, SEW POWER RANGERS


Mary Scales doesn't have a Megazord, but she owns a sewing machine. And in the battle to outfit Power Ranger-crazed children for Halloween, that is all the weaponry she needs.

Ms. Scales is sewing Power Ranger costumes full tilt -- 13 of them. By Halloween, the Baltimore woman will have made costumes for three of her grandchildren, two of her nieces' children and eight of her friends' offspring.

Ms. Scales, a 44-year-old data processor for the FBI, doesn't think much of "Power Rangers," the Fox network smash in which teen-agers "morph" into color-coordinated superheroes.

"It's a dumb show," she says.

But Power Rangers are what the kids want to be for Halloween, so she's cheerfully delivering.

Hordes of doting parents, relatives and family friends are trying to do the same for the kids in their lives. It's not easy.

Millions of licensed Mighty Morphin Power Ranger Halloween costumes, which sell for $17 to $35, have been distributed by their San Diego manufacturer, Disguise Inc. And yet the madding crowd clamors for more.

This week, Party City in Pikesville sold out of 400 Power Ranger costumes in little more than two days.

Some parents are settling for Power Ranger knockoffs -- Sonic Troopers or Ninja Avengers. Others are resorting to needle and thread to morph their kids into authentic Power Rangers.

The $8.95 Power Ranger pattern is Butterick's best-selling item in 10 years, a company spokesman says. The pattern and the fabric are flying out of area fabric stores.

"We can't keep the pattern in stock," says Maddie Beck, merchandise manager at Jo-Ann's Fabrics in Towson.

The staff has had to double and triple reorders of felt and Spandex in Mighty Morphin hues.

For an accomplished sewer like Ms. Scales, turning out a baker's dozen Power Ranger costumes is time-consuming, but easy enough to do.

For seasonal sewers, for whom Halloween is an annual parental proving ground, making even one costume could be a nightmare, warns Minnie Gamble, a supervisor at Blanks fabric center in northwest Baltimore.

Depending on the particular Ranger, the pattern comprises 17 to 23 pieces, including power belt, spats, armbands, padded shoulder thingamabobs and iron-on Dinozord power symbols, Ms. Gamble says.

The "fabric requirement is astronomical," she adds.

So far, however, her customers are are "not as distraught as they need to be," she says. Sandra Hoffman, for instance, is not rushing into her Power Ranger sewing project. "I'm going to open it this weekend," she says. And the Middle River mother does not plan to accept help from her mother as she toils over her 6-year-old son's green Ranger suit.

"I want the praise and the glory," Mrs. Hoffman explains.

Other seamstresses could live without the glory.

"I swore I wasn't going to do this anymore," sighs veteran costume sewer Marsha Weber of Overly as she buys pink fabric and bric-a-brac for a Power Ranger pattern at Jo-Ann's Fabrics.

Mrs. Weber couldn't find a pink Power Ranger costume that fit her grandniece, Amber. What's more, she complains, the store-bought Power Ranger costumes are expensive and look "very cheesy."

Meanwhile, the quest for licensed Power Ranger wear continues: Sharon Trott has driven with her 4-year-old son Zachary from Joppatowne to Greetings and Readings in Towson in search of two Power Ranger suits. The problem: Zachary wants to be a red Ranger and his 6-year-old brother Ryan wants to be a blue Ranger.

"I can't have one be one without letting the other be another," Mrs. Trott says.

She does have a back-up plan. "My mother and sister-in-law sew, but I hate to ask them," Mrs. Trott says. If she gets desperate? "Yeah, I might."

Suddenly, the store's general manager, Steve Spund, produces a second red costume for Ryan. Again, Mrs. Trott is torn.

"I hate to see them both be red," she says. "I don't know if they would like that. The little boy in the next court's going to be one, too."

Disguise Inc. has conceded that it underestimated the demand for the costume, which was produced in only pink, blue and red and in small and medium children's sizes. The popular green, black and yellow Rangers aren't even available.

"If we could only get all the inventory we ordered," Mr. Spund says. "We're still expecting a couple hundred more. The big question is 'if.' "

Here and there, however, those seeking to score the right Power Ranger costume get lucky.

At 8 a.m. Tuesday, 30 customers were waiting for the doors to open at Party City in Pikesville after learning that the store had received 400 costumes.

According to cashier Becky Pickelsimer, more than 100 Power Ranger costumes were sold in 40 minutes. The entire supply of costumes, selling for $16.99 each, vanished in little more than two days.

As she stood in line to buy four Power Ranger suits (in modest defiance of Party City's two-per-customer rule), Mindy Russell shook her head at the surrounding spectacle.

"Everybody's child in the world wants to be one of these things," she says. Right. Come Halloween, swarms of Power Rangers will rove the streets, overwhelming those witches, ghosts, Simbas, Jasmines and Ninja Turtles who don't know Squatt. And, the jumpsuited mini-avengers will take home the lion's share of the loot.

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