The core of the collection was created by Pat Dybowski, who costumed 10 shows for the Amherst Gilbert & Sullivan Players (1978-1988). These costumes (for all shows except Princess Ida, The Grand Duke, and Utopia, Ltd.) were generously donated to Opera-Lytes. For many years, Pat spent weekends combing flea markets, cut-rate fabric outlets, and yard sales for accessories, notions and material. Mary Atwood added to the inventory by making 68 childrens costumes for a lavish production of The King & I (2001) and eliciting a donation from Yolanda of 20 formal dresses for The Merry Widow (2000). Shirley Schlimgen completed the Gilbert and Sullivan costume set with girl graduate gowns for Ida (2004) and striking replicas of Star Trek uniforms for an outer-space version of Utopia (2002), to say nothing of kilts and sporrans for Brigadoon (2008). Other members and friends donated vintage 1950s garments for Pajama Game, She Loves Me, and Kiss Me, Kate, and the collection continued to grow.
The Future of the Costume Collection
By May 2015, our storage space was so full we couldn’t step inside. So we moved to temporary storage, bringing all our costumes together for the first time. Costumes were aired, washed, set aside for mending, and, in some sad cases, discarded due to mold, sunlight or water damage. The collection is astonishing! Opera-Lytes owns 65 large storage bins of clothes, 25 feet of clothes on hangers, and about 25 bins of hats. We have two dozen crinolines, 6 wedding gowns, 6 Victorian and 15 modern police uniforms, pajamas, kilts, fairies, hippies, strippers, gangsters, gondoliers, peasants, aristocrats, spacemen, a jester, a witch, and two potato outfits!
How You Can Help
Do you have vacant space? Rent it to Opera-Lytes at a discounted rate! (the difference is tax deductible).
Do you need space? Clean out your closets and donate vintage clothing, hats, fabric.
Do you sew? Join the costume crew for our next production!
Are you organized? We need to create an online costume inventory.
Can you help with the bills? Storage, dry cleaning, and new costumes all cost money. Your contribution is tax-deductible.