Behind the intricate designs and bright lights of every Bowdoin production there is a little-known outlet that makes it all happen: the costume shop.

Located on Federal Street and originally operated by student theater troupe Masque and Gown,  the costume shop is home to an extensive array of costumes including frock coats, tuxedos and Victorian-era clothing—which is now too fragile to wear on stage, but provides designs for the shop's handmade period costumes. 

Manager Julie McMurry, who has managed the shop for the last 13 years, oversees both the management of the shop and its costume production. Oftentimes, if the requested costumes are contemporary in style, the shop will first purchase the outfits and then do specific alterations depending on the show.

If the costumes require specific detail or are based on a time period other than our own, student employees at the shop will create the costumes themselves, sometimes from original patterns.

For student employees like Axis Fuksman-Kumpa ’17, a shift at work can include drafting pieces, sewing and fitting, in addition to painting, stitch work, lacework and appliqueing.

“Getting to see [the work] as part of a production is just an incredible experience because we work for so long on these pieces,” she said.

A costume shop employee for the past three years, Fuksman-Kumpa is no stranger to the inner-workings of Bowdoin productions as she has been an outfitter of hair and makeup for almost every mainstage production during her time at Bowdoin. 

Fuksman-Kumpa's time at the costume shop has brought her a great sense of satisfaction, specifically when viewing her work as an opportunity to add depth to the characters on stage and bring them to life. 

“[It’s] so incredible … getting to see people wear [my costumes] and getting to see them become art,” said Fuksman-Kumpa. “Just seeing it [all] come to fruition is such an incredible and powerful experience for me.”

Fuksman-Kumpa has also utilized her experience at the costume shop to conduct her own independent study with the theater department, in which she made her own creature-themed costumes and expanded her interest in special effects makeup.

In a series of short videos chronicling fictional creatures in nature, Fuksman-Kumpa pursued an unconventional approach to costuming that she felt is underrepresented in many of the theater department's productions. 

"I wanted to really try to push myself to do more creature costumes [and] more prosthetic work,” she said. 

Although working at the costume shop is a lesser-known employment opportunity for students, McMurry emphasized that there is no experience necessary. 

“Across the board [our student employees] seem to really enjoy working here, because it uses a different part of [their] brain, and even though it's definitely work, it’s very creative and they can talk and be social in this environment,” said McMurry. “I just love the enthusiasm that students bring when they come and work here.” 

"There's always zany stuff going on. I've spent a lot of nights at the theater washing fake blood out of stuff after murder scenes, I've had to make wigs out of yarn and clothes out of curtains for certain plays. I've had to make little blood packs and prosthetic wounds," Fuksman-Kumpa added. 

The costume shop will be providing costumes for Masque and Gown’s "Blown Youth," which will be hosted at Pickard Theater from February 16-18, as well as for the theater department's show "Eurydice" that will be hosted at Wish Theater from March 2-4.