Liberace’s Costume Designer Michael Travis Dies at 86

Costume Designer Michael Travis Dead: Liberace's
Frederick M. Brown/Getty

Michael Travis, best known for designing Liberace’s famously extravagant costumes, died Thursday in his Studio City home. He was 86.

He had been hospitalized last month due to serious ailments including heart problems.

Though Travis designed for several other performers, he will likely be best remembered for his work for 16 years with Liberace before the performer’s death in 1987, creating the over-the-top stage outfits that would become Liberace’s signature. The two began working together in the early 1970s. The outfits incorporated jewels, sequins, feathers, fur and other adornments, causing some to weigh more than 100 pounds.

One outfit that Travis designed for Liberace in 1979, widely known as the “flame” costume, included 1,600 tiny lights. Some of the costumes, inspired designs for royalty, we’re less flashy and featured meticulous detailing. Many of the memorable costumes Travis designed are on display at the Liberace Museum.

Travis also designed for Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross and the Supremes and Nancy Sinatra (pictured with Travis).

His bio on the Costume Designers Guild website says he is “widely known as one of the most gifted and talented costume designers in American television and theater.” Travis worked on 1960s comedy TV hit “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” and several specials. His TV work earned him the Costume Designers Guild career achievement award for television in 2010.

Travis was born in Detroit on April 13, 1928. He served three years in the Army in postwar Europe, then went on to live in Paris, where he studied fashion. Upon moving to New York, he designed costumes for plays.

He worked under legendary costume designer Edith Head after moving to Los Angeles in 1960, working on the Academy Award shows.

In his late 40s, Travis learned he had multiple sclerosis. It was then that he began to work for Las Vegas entertainers.

Travis left no survivors.

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