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Unsung Heroes #233

Staples Players’ first-ever production of “The Descendants” thrilled audiences with energetic hip hop dancing and fantastic sets.

Also earning kudos: stunning costumes.

Though often overlooked, Players’ costume crew works long hours during and after rehearsals — often right until opening night — to make sure actors look their best.

Some costumes are pulled from stock, or ordered and embellished. But one in “Descendants” is extra special.

Maleficent’s daughter Mal’s coronation gown was designed and built from scratch by senior Eliza Bowens.

Eliza Bowens, in her studio.

Her path to designer stardom began in 7th grade, at the New England Fashion and Design Association. Over the years she designed clothes for herself and friends.

As a Players actor she performed onstage in “Legally Blonde” and “Back to the 80s.” But Eliza’s true love is “The Costume Shoppe.” There, she lent her excellent eye and skills to help create looks for characters in shows like “Mamma Mia!,”  “Seussical” and “Grease.”

When costume designer Christie Stanger was pulling together ideas for “Descendants,” she knew Mal’s dress for the big coronation scene needed to be extra special. She also knew Eliza could make it happen.

The young designer repaid the trust Christie, and directors David Roth and Kerry Long, showed in her.

She submitted 3 designs. When one was chosen, Eliza created a pattern, built a dress from muslin, chose fabric and sewed the actual dress.

It took a month. With minor tweaks, it was show-ready for Mal (Quinn Mulvey).

Quinn Mulvey as Mal in a dress designed and built by Staples senior Eliza Bowens. Sebastian Gikas as Prince Ben wears a costume embellished by student designers Rosie Kauppinen and Alexis Mahon. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Eliza did not stop there. Using leftover fabric, she covered shoes to complete the look.

This fall, Eliza heads to Polimoda in Florence, Italy. She’ll continue studying fashion design there.

Two examples of Eliza Bowens’ designs.

Kerry Long says Eliza’s stunning design “reflects Mal’s ‘funky’ side, but also her softening in Auradon. She grows throughout the show, falls in love and learns to care for others, but also stays true to herself. The dress reflects both the ‘edgy’ and the ‘sweet.’”

She and her fellow Costume Shoppe artists never get the spotlight. At the final curtain, actors point down to the pit orchestra, and up at the lights (stage crew), for well deserved applause. Who thanks the costumers?

“06880,” for one. Congratulations and thanks, Eliza and your fellow designers and tailors. We are “sew” grateful for all your work!

(“The Descendants” will be performed again this weekend: Friday, April 8 at 7;30 p.m., and Saturday, April 9 at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Click here for tickets and more information. To nominate an Unsung Hero, email

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