Apparel design majors put their costume sewing skills to the test

A handmade Captain America costume and "avant-garde" Bamm-Bamm from the Flintstones will make their debut this Halloween.

Liv Martin

When you’re an apparel design student, every day requires costuming. These are the people we look to for fashion inspiration, after all.

Oct. 31, however, is special. Chances are, you won’t find a pre-packaged costume in McNeal Hall, as students often use the holiday to show off niche skills.

George Bowser goes all in for Halloween. She began making her own costumes her freshman year of high school, and has transformed herself into Rapunzel, Anastasia (from the Disney film), a clown and a pink lady from “Grease.” 

Bowser was inspired to start sewing by her mom, an avid quilter. From there, she ventured into fashion.

“I learned from her, but she only does quilting. So I was like, ‘Well, I kind of like clothes better than quilting,’ so I started teaching myself,” she said. 

Now a junior studying apparel design at the University of Minnesota, Bowser gets to prepare for her dream career in costuming each Halloween. This year, she has an ambitious costume planned. 

“I’m going to be Captain America, but like the gender-bender version,” she said.

A re-worked t-shirt with Captain America’s signature star-and-stripes will be the costume’s focal point. Bowser is also hand-making cargo pants from duck cloth. She has already cut out all the pieces — the only remaining step is to sew it all together. A “Hollywood-ish” ’40s-inspired hairdo will complete the transformation.

Bowser loves the process. So much, in fact, that she also makes costumes for her friends. One year for Halloween, Bowser and her friends dressed up as characters from the Disney film “Tangled.” She spent weeks completing costumes for everyone — five in total. 

When a friend of her cousin needed a show-stopping Sith Lord costume for a “Star Wars” premiere, Bowser was happy to make one for $30. 

Du Tran, a sophomore apparel design major at the University, is also making a Halloween costume this year — just not for himself. 

Tran’s personal style keeps him creatively engaged. Many of his clothes are handmade, up-cycled or a combination of the two. 

“I’m just weird as a person so I wear stuff where people will be like, ‘Wow, that would be great for Halloween.’ But it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m wearing it on a regular day,’” Tran said. 

He agreed to make a custom-designed costume for his friend Ronald Kissi, a student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, this year. 

Tran plans to make the costume, which he describes as an “avant-garde” rendition of Bamm-Bamm from the Flintstones, a real fashion moment.

His vision is fit for a runway.  

Tran will create a printed skirt with connected, sheer straps – almost like overalls, he said. He wants the garment to give the appearance that Kissi is wearing nothing on top. 

He’s been experimenting with asymmetry lately, and wants to incorporate this in the cut for the skirt and straps.

Kissi is going to pick out the fabric. Beyond that, Tran has full creative freedom. 

“I’m very excited,” Kissi said. 

Tran said he will only make clothes for people if he can get to know them first. It’s important to him that a design reflects his client’s personality.

For both apparel design students, there is something truly gratifying about seeing their work come to life. 

“I don’t think I will get a store-bought costume ever again,” Bowser said.