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Milwaukee's 99-year-old custom costume shop

Posted at 7:12 PM, Apr 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-08 20:12:22-04

MILWAUKEE — From Milwaukee to Chicago, you won't find another store like this one. In fact, barely any actually exist in Wisconsin anymore. It's the Miller and Campbell Costume Service (MAC) shop in Milwaukee.

It's the ultimate costume shop that has clothes from fantasy to mascots to vintage and more. The store on 907 S. 1st St. in Milwaukee has been open since the 1920s. Given their long history, they have tons and tons of different costumes. In fact, they currently have more than 60,000 costumes in their shop.

"We provide costumes for theater, schools, commercials ,fun get-togethers," Casey Harris, an employee with MAC, said.

Costume shop

They obviously work with local theater productions, but they have outfitted actors in commercials across the world. There is even a theater company in South Carolina that often works with the MAC.

Clearly, word has gotten around which is one of the reasons the store has been in business for so long. Plus, they will be the sole provider for entire theater companies. Whether it's alterations or creating costumes from scratch, they are often responsible for the entire costume design.

"So Little Mermaid, Legally Blonde - all those things when they came out needed to be built from scratch, because they weren’t just sitting around," Harris said.

Costumes here range from about $10 for small items all the way up to thousands of dollars for custom pieces.

"A couple random sports stars have asked for some costumes for Halloween," Harris said.

She declined to say exactly who ordered the costume.

Costume shops like this are a rarity these days. It's one of the reasons organizations from around the world reach out to MAC. Harris said the closest costume shop that can provide what they do is in Chicago.

Costume SHop

Shops like these have suffered from the change of in-person to online shopping.

“Well, I think the culture of instant get it now has changed things. A lot of people have been buying costumes on Amazon," Harris said.

But thanks to MAC's ability to do alterations, custom work, and their deep connections with the entertainment community, they have persevered for nearly 100 years.

"I love history. I love tradition. I love the art of sewing, and it's not taught as much. Not as many people sew now nowadays as they used to, so I like keeping that alive," Harris said.

Plus the store has a robust collection of vintage clothes. They like to say that all their period costumes from the 1920s aren't actually costumes, but they are just regular clothes they have accumulated over a near century.

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