December 11, 2017
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Iconic Maine Halloween outfitter fades away one costume at a time

By Beth Brogan, BDN Staff

LISBON, Maine — With Halloween looming, Drapeau’s Costumes typically was busy on a Friday afternoon. Customers wandered the aisles, showing each other 1930s-style felt cloches and medieval gowns, Cleopatra-style headpieces and Superman capes.

But this year, they hadn’t come to rent. Owner Kris Scribner Cornish, having found no buyer for the entire collection of some 4,000 costumes, has begun selling them off individually.

After Kerry Conroy, owner of the adjacent business, Hair’s Too You, bought the 4,000-square-foot costume shop, with plans to divide the space into shops, Cornish will close the Lisbon Falls costume store Dec. 30.

Mike Smith of Durham stopped around 1 p.m. Friday and left with a pope costume, complete with the tall, white mitre, for $75.

“That is an original cape from one of our churches,” longtime seamstress Diane Meservier, 70, said. “This comes from St. Peter’s.”

“We saw this and we were like, ‘It’s a little too much,’” Smith said. “But we live in Durham, and nobody’s going to judge. I can pope out.”

Alexis McCallister and Lauren MacAlister, also from Durham, found hooded capes and a white-and-beige-checked double knit suit from the 1970s.

“We’re going as characters in a game we play: [Pandemic: Reign of] Cthulhu,” McCallister said.

Linda Scott of Lewiston tried on an elaborate red-and-black flamenco dress and a lace-trimmed, Colonial-era gown.

“I used to come here when it was on Lisbon Street [in Lewiston],” Scott said. She said her family creates Halloween displays each year and dresses up, choosing from boxes full of costumes.

A few minutes later, Scott was at the register, pleased to make a purchase.

“Oh yeah, it’s sold,” she said, smiling.

Burt Gendron and his wife, Jill Gendron, of Lewiston, arrived in search of the knight and milkmaid costume they rented several years ago.

Cornish went immediately to find the coif and hood for the knight costume, while Jill Gendron considered a variety of medieval gowns.

Chris Ladner of Brunswick hung costumes on a rack as he made his decisions. Among them, Superman and a green dragon. A youth soccer coach in Brunswick, Ladner said he hopes to convince a parent to serve as a mascot during this weekend’s soccer tournament.

“It hurts when something sells for $45,” Cornish said of the costumes, many handmade by Meservier and herself. “I know it’s worth more, but I would have to take photos [of each item] to sell them on Etsy.”

Meservier has worked for 40 years, through three different owners, creating costumes for the shop.

“I started in 1976, the year ‘Star Wars’ came out,” she said. “There were no patterns. I had to look at pictures and make [the costumes] from foam and metallic [fabric]. I did very well, I must say.”

The original owner, Lucienne Drapeau, opened the shop on Main Street in Lewiston, Meservier said, remembering that Drapeau — “a wonderful seamstress” — was colorblind, so Meservier often took costumes apart and matched the colors.

Meservier figures she made about a third of the costumes in the shop, and enjoyed scouring yard sales for jewelry to adorn the hats.

In 1989, she won a first place trophy at the National Costumers Association. Meservier hopes to take the trophy and albums of photographs, as well a series of caroler costumes, the the museum at L/A Arts in Lewiston.

“It’s the end of a beautiful, beautiful era,” she said.

Throughout the afternoon, Cornish fielded phone calls from customers asking what hours she’d be open between now and Halloween. Last week, she was open daily during the afternoon, but she’ll stay open longer as Halloween approaches.

But there’s still a chance, after all, that she’ll sell what’s left of the collection to one person. Earlier this week, Cornish got a phone call from a woman hoping to buy everything, she said.

“I told her I wasn’t going to stop the sale,” Cornish said. “I can’t. But if she hands me a check, I’ll close right then.”

 


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