Curtain Call

Inside the Lyric Opera's costume closet


   Mary Traylor has been a top name in Kansas City design for more than 35 years. Though modest, the veteran costumer is perhaps best known for her freelance work with various venues and organizations, including the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. “They’re where my heart is, frankly,” she says. For the past decade, Traylor has been the resident costume coordinator for the opera, overseeing productions that come to the venue, fittings of costumes and accessories; creating renderings; sourcing fabrics; and managing costume companies and dress rehearsals. A few operas on her lengthy résumé include Hamlet, Giulio Cesare, Aida, The Elixir of Love and Don Giovanni.

   “Armor stuff is probably the heaviest I’ve made,” she says. “I try to cheat whenever possible and make things more actor-friendly. But you know what I love? The actors who say, “If this is what is right for the role, I’ll wear it.”

   Throughout her celebrated career, Traylor has fitted many actors, from local favorites such as Nathan Darrow (The Wizard of Lies, Preacher, Gotham) and award-winning mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato to TV legends like Marion Ross, Don Knotts and Dyan Cannon.

   “Joyce is a professional and lovely and gracious and talented,” she gushes. “Marion Ross loved St. John suits; lovely, beautiful woman. Don Knotts was the most lovable, wonderful, sweet, fabulous man. Dyan Cannon: darling, wonderful. I love her dearly. We’re pals. She’s challenging.”

   Traylor gives 435 Magazine a tour of the Lyric Opera’s costume closet, regaling us with the stories behind her creations and giving us a sneak peek of items on offer at highly anticipated costume sale on Oct. 14. Ranging from bargains to collector’s items, the sale features something for all: capes and stunning headdresses, styles spanning from the French Revolution and early Americana, and even contemporary and post-apocalyptic grunge.

   Ushering in its 60th season, the opera opens with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s lyric opera Eugene Onegin. The Russian-sung masterpiece follows selfish hero Eugene Onegin, whose life snowballs into tragedy after he jadedly rejects a young woman named Tatyana.

   For more information, visit

Beaded Dress Lyric Opera Kansas City

Beaded dress: “To reproduce this now would be close to $3,000. This is an exact replica of Dinner at Eight, Jean Harlow dress. I got the fabric in New York, but the marabou is illegal, so we had to use ostrich instead of marabou to do this.” Not for sale.

Fashion Tip: If you have beaded dresses, never hang them. They "grow" by a couple of inches over time. 

Egyptian headdress Lyric Opera 435 Mag KC

Egyptian headdress: “The Indian government used to subsidize a lot of the handwork, which they no longer do.”


Snowy dress Lyric Opera KC

Blue, snowy dress: “This was made for Joyce DiDonato. Joyce started out as Cinderella. This was one of her first breakout roles. I leant her my personal necklace for this because it was a singer-friendly necklace.” (Just wearing this dress could be considered a workout. It weighs almost 20 pounds.)


Custom vest from india Lyric Opera KC

Custom vest from India


Pink headdress Lyric Opera KC

(Online exclusive) Pink headdress 


Armor Lyric Opera

(Online exclusive) Armor 


Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Theatre