Have you ever walked out of a show wishing you could take the costumes home with you? Thanks to Reid & Harriet Design, the label behind many of New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre's most imaginative contemporary costumes, this dream is becoming a reality. Founders Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung have designed a line of ready-to-wear swimwear from the watercolor-like striped fabric they created for Justin Peck's 2016 Scherzo Fantastique. This design duo is responsible for costuming 10 of Peck's ballets over the past few years, and was featured in the 2015 Peck documentary, Ballet 422.
Apparently, there’s a black market for Nutcracker costumes.
Back in November, Festival Ballet Providence artistic director Mihailo Djuric found himself in a serious bind when a trip to the company’s storage facility in Pawtucket, RI, revealed that 57 costumes for its upcoming Nutcracker production had been stolen. Important items such as a Swarovski crystal-embellished Sugar Plum Fairy tutu and the Nutcracker’s mask had been quietly removed from their crates. “Many of the stolen costumes were for our children’s cast members, which is especially disheartening,” Djuric said in a statement. The company had mere weeks to figure out how to replace dozens of tunics and tutus before opening night on December 16.
Not wasting a moment’s time, Djuric called ballet companies nationwide to find similar costumes he could rent for the production. Since then, over a dozen have come to the rescue, including Kansas City Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, BalletMet, Rochester City Ballet, Connecticut Ballet and Mobile Ballet in Alabama. This week, 10 volunteer costumers from around New England have been sewing nonstop, reconstructing new pieces from scratch (such as the Toy Soldier jackets) and altering costumes that were not stolen to match rented items. “This entire process has required a tremendous amount of creativity and imagination to make sure we get this show on stage and looking sharp,” says Djuric. Their hard work paid off—by Thursday morning’s school performance for 1,000 area children, all costumes and props were reconstructed or replaced.
A motive for the theft is still unclear, and Pawtucket police continue to investigate. While Festival Ballet is still working on an exact figure, the financial loss is estimated to be in the tens of thousands of dollars, and the company will be forced to make new costumes next year. But in the meantime, Providence can still enjoy its annual Nutcracker magic, thanks to the dance community’s generosity.
Admit it: You've considered the various ways you could sneak your favorite costume home with you. We don't blame you. Whether it's a jaw-dropping tutu or the world's most comfortable slip, costumes are made to make dancers look and feel beautiful. Here, we've rounded up some of our favorites, that just happen to be street-style ready.
Justin Peck's Entre Chien et Loup, at the Paris Opéra Ballet, featured stunning dresses by couture designer Mary Katrantzou which wouldn't look out of place on the streets of New York City. Peck and Katrantzou also worked together for his Belles Lettres at New York City Ballet—though those sheer, lace covered costumes are probably best left onstage.
The costumes for Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette were designed by Jérôme Kaplan and the iridescent dresses are utterly 90s-chic. Throw a choker on with Juliette's party-scene dress and you're ready to step out tonight.
The costumes for Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room are iconic: Bright red, with black and white stripes (not to mention crisp white sneakers and red pointe shoes). The costumes were designed by another famous name in couture: Norma Kamali. Her costumes for Tharp wouldn't be out of place at an art opening or summertime concert.
The new costumes for NYCB ballet master Peter Martins' Thou Swell were designed by Oscar de la Renta's Peter Copping. The results are spectacularly glamorous, and we can't really think of an occasion that would merit wearing something so fabulous. Maybe the Met Gala?
The costumes for Mark Morris' After You were designed by none other than Isaac Mizrahi. The jumpsuits would be so much fun to wear to an early-summer picnic...or maybe jet-setting around the Mediterranean.
The simple color palate of the costumes for Jiří Kylián's Forgotten Land brings to mind twilight and the approaching end of the year. These flattering dresses, designed by Kylián himself, would fit right in at a winter holiday party.
What are your favorite "street-style" costumes?
When we first reported on Miami City Ballet's redesign of George Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream, we were, to be totally honest, mostly interested in seeing the costume for the character Bottom. Why? In the MCB production, which places Oberon and Titania's kingdom underwater, Bottom is a manatee rather than a donkey. We needed to see that.
Now, for the big reveal. And he's every bit as silly and adorable as you might imagine.
In addition to Bottom, the redesigned costumes—which were created by Miami Beach–born artist Michele Oka Doner—all featured underwater elements. Titania's tutu is adorned with what appears to be feathery seaweed, while Hippolyta is crowned with gold coral.
New York City Ballet resident choreographer Justin Peck has balletomanes everywhere on the edge of their seat, impatiently awaiting the premiere of his first narrative work, The Most Incredible Thing. Based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, the ballet will feature dozens of NYCB dancers and students from SAB (the cast numbers more than 50!).
Until now, we've only had tantalizing peeks at the costumes, with designer Marcel Dzama and Peck posting a few shots on Instagram. And we haven't heard the music at all. But with the release of NYCB's The Most Incredible Thing trailer, we finally have a chance to see some of Dzama's wildly original designs in action, worn by Peck's usual muses as they dance to music by composer Bryce Dessner (of the band The National).
The trailer looks like something Wes Anderson might direct, which bodes well for a fairytale full of both wonder and destruction. Peck's aesthetic and vision have only grown more clear as he becomes more experienced, and it's exciting to think about how his stylistic preferences will play out on such a grand scale. Fingers crossed that this ballet is full of the heart and excitement that abound in his most successful works.
If you're curious how these outrageously ornate costumes came to life, check out this Women's Wear Daily interview with Dzama. Famous for his macabre sketches and masks, Dzama doesn't seem like an obvious choice as the designer of a ballet. But with the help of NYCB's costume shop, Dzama's ideas have ended up coming to life. They're reminiscent of work by Maurice Sendak—and keep in mind that the beloved picture book author/illustrator did indeed create the designs for Pacific Northwest Ballet's former version of The Nutcracker. Maybe the minds of artists in touch with their inner child are perfect for creating a fantastical world onstage.
Do you have a favorite Sugar Plum Fairy costume? It's kind of like trying to choose a favorite child—but each company decks out the show-stopping tutu in such unique and gorgeous ways that picking one isn't really slighting the others. And anyway, we'd rather just enjoy the beauty of costume craftsmanship brought to life by gorgeous ballerinas around the world. Enjoy!
The National Ballet of Canada's pink perfection:
San Francisco Ballet goes for the gold:
The Royal Ballet's demure blue:
Pacific Northwest Ballet's pop of purple:
Boston Ballet's dynamic details:
(Eloise Smith, stockroom assistant in the costume department at the Royal Opera House, photo by Ruairi Watson)
The Royal Opera House, home of The Royal Ballet, has launched a new university degree program in partnership with South Essex College and the University of the Arts in London. In order to address a dearth of costume makers in the performing arts industry, these three institutions will offer a joint degree that provides students with the opportunity to study costume construction.
The three-year program will teach students the skills they need to work everywhere from television to a ballet company. The courses concentrate on costume construction rather than design, in order to produce professionals who are highly skilled makers in their own right.
The ROH has a remarkable collection of costumes, historic costumes and wigs, which will be used as teaching objects for students. Congratulations to the ROH and its partners for addressing a major gap in the creation of theater magic. After all, behind every ballerina and her tutu there's a dedicated costume designer, and ballet lovers everywhere are indebted to their hard work.
For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue: pointemagazine.com/digital.
New York Fashion week is well and good, but the dance world awaits New York City Ballet's Fall Gala with equal anticipation. Each year, the company partners with couture designers to create elaborate, unexpected costumes for the handful of world premieres. Peter Copping, the creative director of Oscar de la Renta, has embarked on his first attempt at costume design rather than high fashion: He's redesigning the costumes for Peter Martins' Thou Swell.
Thou Swell premiered in 2003 and was last performed in 2013, and Coppings creations signify a major visual redesign for the piece. How's this green fringed dress for a contemporary tutu?
(Photo via Women's Wear Daily)
Copping is in good company—Thom Browne, Prabal Gurung, Carolina Herrera, Mary Katrantzou, Olivier Theyskens, Iris Van Herpen and Valentino have all designed for NYCB. As with all of the company's couture collaborations, I'm excited to see how the clothes work onstage. If the movement of that fringe is any indication, it should be glamorous indeed. Check out more costumes for Thou Swell here.