Large character heads surround the store, gazing down at racks of period costumes and rows of Styrofoam molds covered in wigs. Pirate hats and platform shoes sit adjacent to the dressing room, urging customers to transform into someone or something else.
“People come in and sometimes think we’re a thrift store because of how we’re set up,” says Louie Bowen, owner of Hughie & Louie’s Costumes, Magic and More on Glenwood Avenue. “But we’re really a clothing museum.”
As the only year-round full-service costume shop in Raleigh, Bowen takes pride in the “mom and pop” approach her business offers, a business acquired from her Uncle Hughie’s original Magic Corner on Hillsborough Street. While Halloween is certainly a popular time of year for the store, Hughie & Louie’s caters to more than just the month of October.
“We deal with drag queens and Baptist preachers,” says Bowen. “We dress people for vacation Bible school, local theater, school projects, commercials, movies, drag pageants – they all come through.”
Customization is key, says Bowen, who enjoys the idea of making every costume unique for the client. A perfect example can be shown through her current project, creating a firetruck costume for a mule for Benson Mule Days, complete with foam siding and a metal grate out front.
“We’re working on flashing lights for its head and a working hose,” says Bowen. “They’re trying to win the costume contest for the parade.”
Bowen, who finds it amusing that she owns a costume shop and does not know how to sew, gets creative in other ways.
“With safety pins, duct tape, hot glue and a staples, I can custom fit,” says Bowen. “Once a company called and wanted a big Madonna bra. I bought a bra, got the cones, I’ve got glitter, elastic and two little bows and tassels and it’s done. I said, ‘Look, I’m done, ta-ta!’”
That Madonna bra was a big hit, and later amused Bowen immensely when a customer’s 6-year-old son placed it on his head, tied the straps around his chin, and declared it “the coolest alien hat I’ve ever seen in my life!”
The months of September through December are considered Hughie & Louie’s busy season, with the combination of Halloween, school projects, and Christmas. Snowmen, reindeer and nutcracker heads all sit in the back corner of the store ready to be rented.
“Whether you’re 9 or 90, everyone loves a character costume,” says Bowen. “My thing is affordable fun. Have a character come to your house. Instead of dragging your kid to the mall for Santa, rent the suit or rent the actor—which we also have. That’s a fun time.”