CINCINNATI – You may have caught a glimpse of a vast black hoop skirt swish down an aisle, or a long, ornately patterned, begoggled beak nosing its way through the produce section if you made a recent trip to Jungle Jim’s grocery store in suburban Cincinnati on the same day as Karen Hinrichs Lukes.
If so, you were treated to a snapshot of just how wild fashion could be even just raiding the grocery in a post-apocalyptic world.
You may have even seen her getup being shared on Reddit or Facebook, where photos of her shopping trip exploded in popularity, causing her DMs to be stuffed with friend requests, exclamations of “OMG we could be best friends” and people asking her to teach techniques or do a class.
“In apocalyptic movies, everyone has a crazy getup and I always wanted to see the prequel where they’re raiding the craft store and getting their stuff together. I thought this is the time to decide what we’re wearing,” Hinrichs Lukes said.
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Hinrichs Lukes, a 46-year-old Kentucky resident, is a costume-crafting aficionado, having made a hobby of winning costume contests and crafting killer ensembles from her kids’ Halloween fantasies.
Her daughter wanted to be Medusa for Halloween, so she carved 16 snakes from a block of foam and mounted it to a hat. Her son wanted a costume from the video game “Plants vs. Zombies,” so she fashioned a giant Venus’ flytrap head out of cardboard.
Her hobby leads her to frequent visits to thrift stores to find inspiration, so it’s not surprising she already had all the parts for her apocalypse costume at home.
Her creativity doesn’t end there. There’s also her urge to perform. She spent two years with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Clyde Beatty and Cole Bros. and the Kelly Miller Circus
“I used to be a circus clown, so this costume hit the sweet spot for performance for me of ‘Look at me, look at me, look at me,’ but with anonymity. Make people laugh, smile, and not be recognizable after the fact,” she said.
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She distilled and dramatized her fears of the new coronavirus pandemic and put them on parade: an enormous hoop skirt to ensure everyone keeps their distance, a dramatically large and sharp beak-like mask to prevent breathing in the virus.
But Hinrichs Lukes ensured she was being responsible with displaying her flair for the dramatic. Her friends, who had watched the monthlong process of the costume’s realization, said she just had to go to the grocery store. But she wanted to do the right thing and waited until she had an actual grocery list.
Karen Hinrichs Lukes (Photo: Provided)
“I was legit trying to grocery shop. The only time I stopped and posed was if I knew for sure there was nobody trying to get around me. I was just trying to do a regular, quick, ‘you’re going in and you’re getting out,’ grocery run,” she said.
Her friend accompanied her with her camera but found it difficult to shoot Hinrichs Lukes as she zoomed through the store.
Back to the costume, though: The whole concept started with the mask. Then she thought of the cage petticoat, which she expected to fail in creating. It’s made from a smaller petticoat that came out of a prom dress. She widened the skirt even further by taking apart a sun shelter pop tent that had two big rings in it. Those poles were threaded through plastic tubing and fastened with a ton of bias tape.
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She recorded several live videos on Facebook as she went through the process. The whole thing took about a month to make during breaks from homeschooling her three children who are 16, 14 and 11 (she’s a homeschool mom even when there’s not a pandemic), and sewing about 100 face masks for Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled.
“Right now, before I make anything else stupid and fun, I’m cutting up the majority of my fabric stash and making about 600 more masks for them. If once this is over, I had a fabric stash that didn’t help people, I’d feel bad.”
The costume may make another appearance at some point, too. She might hit the grocery store in dramatic fashion again, of course during a time when the least amount of people are there and somewhere where the aisles are wide.
Or, “Instead of going for a walk around my neighborhood, I might go for a very dramatic walk around my neighborhood.”
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