Looking for an over-the-top ensemble or want Instagram-worthy party decorations?Here’s where you go.

Miranda Brown of Kansas City Costume Company shows off a period piece. Photography provided.

Looking for an over-the-top ensemble or want Instagram-worthy party decorations? Believe it or not, those in the know and not afraid to stand out in the crowd often head to professional-level costume and theatrical supply stores to find a special look. These shops do a brisk business in Halloween costumes, of course, but they also cater to those looking to attend themed galas, weddings, costume parties or find the perfect look for their next viral Tik-Tok. 

Kansas City is home to several of these shops. Here’s a rundown of a few of the biggest shops in town.

A to Z Theatrical Supply and Service, Inc.

Props are nearly as important as costumes at this 60,000-square-foot business in Brookside. “We can outfit a whole room,” says company manager Erin Kelley, who says A to Z often supplies decorations for corporate and charity events. Kelley describes the main floor showroom of wigs, hats, accessories and racks of costumes as “our rental wonderland.”

Owner Alex Perry worked in theater and set design before purchasing the business in 2013, later moving it from a smaller location in Waldo to a vacant Jewish synagogue at Meyer Boulevard and Rockhill Road. A collector by nature, Perry has devoted whole rooms to manual typewriters, phones from the 1980s, plastic food and other oddities. Props are scattered here and there—the Eiffel Tower, ET in a bike basket, a bathtub on rollers, an Egyptian sarcophagus.

Staff include a makeup artist who can create fake wounds or a cat face from foam latex prosthetics; an alterations department; a fabrication shop; and a props master. Other staff sew, install and repair curtains for theaters throughout the Midwest or set up sound and spotlights for events like Kansas City Fashion Week.

Some costumes, such as Ursula’s huge, mirror-studded leg belt from The Little Mermaid, are limited to theater productions. But there are hundreds available to the public. Maybe this is where you can find that perfect Halloween costume.

Last year, Bridgerton and Regency-era costumes were big, as well as fairies and woodland creatures. The Roaring Twenties are a perennial favorite along with more recent decades—the ’60s flower-power look, ’70s funky town or ’80s glam rock.

Accessories run the gamut from Steampunk goggles to Venetian ball masks to Harry Potter scarves. An aristocratic Queen of England gown pairs with a plush corgi.

Kansas City Costume Company

Just a few blocks east of A to Z is Kansas City Costume Company, a theatrical supply company that dates back to the 1920s, when it was located downtown. Owners Steve Short and Carl Welander recently moved the business from Raytown Road to The Landing at 1229 E. 63rd Street.

Miranda Brand, rental specialist, says they see all kinds of people come to the shop for various reasons. There’s the man who rents a pilgrim outfit to deliver pies to homeless shelters in November and partygoers dressing in character to attend a murder mystery event. One time the dress-up event was a funeral: The deceased had a sense of humor and requested mourners pay their respects in costume, she says.

KC Costume’s main business is designing and supplying professional packages for high school plays, community theaters and productions at venues like the Kansas City Opera, Starlight Theatre and St. Louis Muny. 

Have Guns Will Rent Costumes and Props

If A to Z specializes in stage curtains and Kansas City Costume in outfitting big musical productions, what’s Have Guns known for? Jerry Vest, who co-owns the rambling business in Kansas City, Kansas, with his wife, Linda, is stumped, but only for a second. “Doesn’t matter,” he shrugs. “We got everything.” 

That might be true. Vest manages three buildings clustered around State Avenue and North 13th Street, and they’re filled with clothes, props and prosthetics. A guillotine sits in the front lot, a police car in the back. There’s also an outhouse, a hospital bed with an IV drip set, a vintage red phone booth and a coffin. They’re all for rent. Heck, they’re all for sale, because at age 70, Jerry’s supposed to be downsizing.

If he has a specialty, it might be weapons—guns, knives, bayonets and Guardian of the Galaxy-type swords. He decommissions the guns so they can’t shoot. He makes many of the other weapons with skills honed at an auto repair shop he ran until two years ago.

Have Guns carries some of the same lower-cost costumes found at places like Party City, including kids costumes, but Jerry says the quality has gone down. Instead, for an average of $40 or $50, customers can rent the real thing (or a close imitation) from Have Guns. Pirates are always popular, as well as gangsters, Star Wars, and Renaissance and gothic ware. Jerry even offers maternity-size costumes and an outfit that makes the wearer look nude.  

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