White man inside a ballet costume shop

Meet the Director of Costumes at New York City Ballet

Nov 11, 2023

We are thrilled to welcome Marc Happel who is the Director of Costumes at New York City Ballet to The Style That Binds Us podcast to discuss his career & newly released book, New York City Ballet: Choreography & Couture. That is about fashion, the Fall Gala at the New York City Ballet.

*You can also watch the full episode on our YouTube Channel.

It was very important for me, besides photography, to include costume sketches by all the designers, because that’s something that the general public rarely ever sees
Marc Happel, Director of Costumes at New York City Ballet / Photo Courtesy: A Shaded View On Fashion

Thank you so much Marc for being here.

Of course, it’s my pleasure.

Will you start by walking us through your career?

I moved to New York in about 1979. I came to New York to work on a new Broadway Musical that Bob Fosse was putting on called – Dancin’. The shop that was building it was in trouble.

They were very far behind. They were looking for people to help, and a friend of mine said, “Do you want to come to New York and work on this Bob Fosse show?” It was like one of those stories where you pack up the station wagon and drive to New York, for Bob Fosse.

Then two weeks later, I found myself standing on the stage of a Broadway theater with Bob Fosse and Willa Kim, the costume designer, Ann Reinking, and all of his dancers trying to figure out how we were going to do this. So, as a 23-year-old, it was just like, “What?” Then just moving quickly, I soon opened my own business, which is called – Marc Happel Limited. We did a lot of films, Broadway, and Off-Broadway Dance.

After about 12 to 14 years of that, I realized that I wasn’t a great businessman and that it was time for someone else to do the business, and for me, just to create. I closed down Marc Happel Limited. It was also a time when the city was not supporting small businesses in a great way, so we didn’t get much support.

I went to work at Barbara Matera Limited, which was an amazing, very established, very famous costume shop led by the famous Barbara Matera, who is now gone, but who was probably one of the best costume makers in the world. I learned an amazing amount there, an incredible place to work. Worked on wonderful projects, right and left.

It was also the kind of place where it was very exciting. It was a tiny little lobby, and you could walk through the lobby to go to a fitting room. I remember one day walking to the lobby, and there were lives in an alley, Joel Grey and Kathleen Battle.

We’re standing in the lobby, just chatting. It was very exciting. When Barbara died, she died soon after 9/11. It’s always the kind of thing where when the person whose name is on the door passes away, an energy also passes with them. I did not find it – the place I wanted to be anymore.

Then The Metropolitan Opera called me and asked me if I’d be interested in coming to work there. I jumped at that and worked at the Metropolitan for a while, it was a whole other beast. It’s an amazing place to work, but it is an incredible place that kind of drains you in a lot of ways, and I found it exhausting and overwhelming.

At the point that I was getting to be thinking I needed to maybe look farther, New York City Ballet called. The director of costumes was moving on and they were looking for someone to replace her. After about three weeks of interviews, I jumped across the plaza to the New York City Ballet at the State Theatre.

That was in 2006, so that was about 18 years ago now and I can’t believe I’ve been here for 18 years. That’s where we are now, that’s where I am now.

It’s such an inspiring career. My goodness, thank you for walking us through that.

In 1978, it was the time when I came to New York to go to the School of American Ballet.

Really? Right. I was very downtown.

Very exciting. Mom experienced that blackout in the summer. Were you there?

I was, yes.

Right? I remember that my mother was in Birmingham, Alabama. No one could get in touch with anybody, so she walked our dog all night. Meanwhile, we’re out all around Lincoln Center.

All the restaurants were handing out free drinks and free food. It was so much fun, it was so exciting. I was at Lincoln Center in one of the theaters when the lights went out.


Yeah, they made us not want to go.

That was crazy.

We could talk about that all day. But we have a lot to talk about, I know. Tell us why you decided to write this book – New York City Ballet: Choreography & Couture.

I felt that it was important, after going through 10 years of working with all these designers and creating all these costumes. It was time to record what we had done, what the shop here had done, which is so important.

After working with almost 30 world-class designers, it just seemed like it was time to put that into a book. I also felt that we had created a lot of costumes, maybe we don’t know whether they’ll ever be seen again. Sometimes ballets are successful, sometimes they aren’t.

When they aren’t, they usually go away, and the costumes are never seen again. We did build some incredible costumes. I also felt I wanted to do something where the general public could see these costumes up close.

Because that’s often the case in a theater, you’re sixty, seventy feet away, and you don’t see the details, you don’t see the workmanship that’s gone into them. I felt like it was something I wanted to have photographs taken so that you could study and look at these costumes. 

It was such an interesting collaboration between designers, choreographers, you, and people who love fashion. It’s interesting for people who love ballet, it’s interesting for the designers themselves to be able to see their clothes being used in motion. So many things. I wish you could do an exhibit, that should be the next part after your book comes out.

We already have. That was done several years ago before the pandemic. Lexus had a space down on 14th Street. It was a restaurant and then the exhibit area.

We were the second show I think, where they invited me to bring down and create an exhibit of the clothes from the Fall Fashion Galas. I can send you a link to that if you’d like to see photographs of it.

Sure. We’d add a link to your book in our show notes. It would be a great gift.

Yes, and it has the perfect red cover.

It does. What do you want to say?

No, I’m just thinking how pretty the book is.

It is magnificent. So will you walk us through putting the book together? What was important for you that were some must to include?

First of all, I approached Rizzoli. A friend of mine, who had a connection with one of the editors, set up a meeting where we met here at the shop. I presented the idea to her.

Caitlin Leffel then went back to Rizzoli to Charles Miers, who’s the Chief Editor at Rizzoli, USA, and presented it to him and he thought it was a great idea. Because Rizzoli very much loves to bring art forms together, the idea of bringing fashion and dance together was something that they really thought was inspiring. He was very on board with it, and so we moved quickly with Rizzoli into the fact that it was happening. It then took a little bit of time and a little bit of pushing here at City Ballet to get this moving.

But finally, I did get the green light six days before the middle of March when we went into lockdown. We closed down for a year and a half here at City Ballet. I went home not knowing whether this was going to happen or not and continued to work on it, make mock-ups, and do research. It was important for me that the book included photography, so I interviewed several photographers.

Then I finally decided on Pari Dukovic, he had done a spring campaign of ours and I’d seen some of that photography and liked it. He signed on, that was just before the pandemic as well. Once we came out of it and got the green light again to go ahead, we were moving forward with this.

It was very important for me, besides photography, to include costume sketches by all the designers, because that’s something that the general public rarely ever sees. What is that two-dimensional sketch that the three-dimensional costume came from? It’s interesting just to see the variety of sketching that’s done.

Some of it is very abstract, like Thom Browne’s, which some people look at and can’t figure out what it is. I look at it and it’s like, I see every costume in that sketch. Some are incredibly descriptive like Valentino’s, Carolina Herrera’s, Sarah Burton’s, or Alexander McQueen’s, where they’re very descriptive and you can see the costume in the sketch.

Beyond that, I wanted to include a foreword by Sarah Jessica Parker. Two friends of mine, Tonne Goodman, who is a big supporter of New York City Ballet, and Patricia Mears from FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), who’s a big fashion person. I wanted essays from them.

I wrote an intro, of course, and wanted to include quotes from designers, dancers, and choreographers that will kind of give an insight into the process, what it was like, what fittings are like, and so on.

I think that’s brilliant. I think that all of those pieces needed to be in there for people to understand, “What brings these people together?” So how did the Fall Gala begin? Did that have to do with Sarah Jessica?

Yes. That’s something that she proposed along with Peter Martins, our director. At that time, the Fall Fashion shows here in New York had moved to Lincoln Center for that short-lived period. She thought that it was an interesting idea, “Should we work with fashion designers as costume designers, with choreographers, creating new works for our Fall Fashion Galas?”

So she came to me, and I’ve said this many times. Originally, the idea was to create new up-and-coming designers, combining them with new choreographers. Well, our first Gala was four ballets designed by Valentino, with ballets by Peter Martins and Christopher Wheeldon.

Right, but then you went to Rosie Assoulin and Justin Peck was young.

Right. We kind of started high with Valentino. But that was kind of a magical time, he was incredible to work with and very excited about it. I think it resonated with him because he was good friends with Peter Martins.

He also, having retired, gave him a new project. It gave him something exciting to design again and he was very much a part of it, very much involved. He was here all the time, I have to say he was a treat to work with.

Wow. Yeah, and he still supports the Ballet. I mean, I’ve seen him.

Right. Although, I think he’s not doing so well these days. But I mean, he is ninety-something.

Exactly. That’s just wonderful. I’m so glad that it all came together.

Yes, so we’ve had 10 years. What’s your hope for the next 10 years of this Fall Fashion Gala?

I don’t know. There’s a part of me that feels like it’s kind of played itself out. I think that, in a way, it’s time for New York City Ballet to perhaps think of a new angle for their Fall Galas.

I don’t know whether that’s having new music done, bringing in artists, or what. I am constantly being told that the Fall Fashion Gala is a huge moneymaker, which is what a Gala is about. 

That’s right.

I think that our Fall Fashion Gala probably makes at least twice as much as the Spring Gala does. It is successful. I don’t know, this last one was unusual because it was not all new. None of them were new.

Dress rehearsals when you finally see it all on stage and it’s about to open is a very exciting time, and also a sense of relief that you’ve gotten this on stage, it’s working, and you move forward from there.

I mean, it was Glass Pieces that were the original costumes, but it was, Who Cares? Which is an existing Balanchine ballet but redesigned by Wes Gordon, that was the first where we had a ballet and existing ballet redesigned by a fashion designer.

That’s fascinating, that is. So how did you work with these designers?

First, there was the introduction that happened in the late spring. Either that happens here in New York if they are here, or if they can get here they come to the shop, they kind of get the lay of the land, they see that there is a shop, a very large shop full of amazing artisans here ready to build their costumes. I think a lot of times, when they first sign on with this, they think that they’re going to have to build the costumes in their studios.

It becomes obvious that their clothes are going to be built here. We start talking with the choreographer as much as we can, about any kind of details they might have. It’s a little early at that point, so it’s kind of hard. Because usually, you’ve got the music decided, the choreographer has got some idea of choreography, where the direction is going to go, what this ballet is going to look like.

But we’re always kind of with the Fall Gala’s, where it’s a little backward in that we’re talking to a fashion designer, about something that doesn’t exist. It’s a little hard because you don’t have the details you’d like to give them. But as the process starts going through the summer, the choreographer usually becomes familiar with what music they want to use, which gets passed on to the designer.

Then details like the size of a ballet, how many people are in it, how many principals are there, how many demi couples, and how many core couples? Also, it becomes more obvious to the choreographer if it’s a leotard and tights or unitard ballet, or if they see it being a little more involved. Even if it’s a tutu ballet which rarely they have been, the details start to kind of develop through the summer.

So that when we come back at the end of July, basically at that point, I’ve over the phone and Zoom and so on, and have been able to talk to the designers about what we’re going to be doing. They usually have, by that point in July, come up with preliminary sketches of some kind of fabrics, and we start talking about fabric. Sometimes I have to travel to them because they’re in Europe and can’t get here.

Did you get to go spend time with Dries van Noten?

Yes. There have been trips to London – Marques’Almeida. Of course, Dries van Noten. Then there was a trip to Paris, there is always a little bit of a perk and it is nice to fly to Antwerp to sit in Dries van Noten’s office and talk to him about what we’re going to do. 

Do they speak very much with the choreographer themselves?

They do. I’m a bit of a connector, but there is more of a conversation directly between a choreographer and a fashion designer. They certainly have either email conversations, phone, or Zoom – sometimes they get together.

Yeah, it’s a new experience for both, right? The designer learns how to make clothes while the choreographer has to design. Not just come to you, and you already know what you’re going to do.

Right. A lot of it is more for the fashion designer who’s sometimes entering into a world that’s very unknown to them. 

Right, exactly.

They might know it, and they might have been to see ballets, but they’ve never actually designed clothes for a ballet company. I come into play a lot there, talking about what kind of fabrics we might be able to use that would be more dancer-friendly.

Fortunately, we’re finding a lot more fabrics that have stretch in them, where many times a fashion designer will come to me and say, they want to use Chiffon, I will suggest stretch Chiffon which there are some great versions of that out there, so there is a lot of that for us to kind of suggest. 

Right, each one of you plays a really important role in making this happen.

Because some of them kind of feel like, this is so out of their wheelhouse, probably.

Right. There are also initial meetings where you have to say, “I kind of have to talk them through a little bit about the differences of designing for a runway or a woman on a red carpet, as opposed to designing for dancers, where an audience is fifty or sixty feet away.” In the stage lights and just talking about becoming a little more graphic, the small details kind of have to fall to the wayside because they’re not going to be seen.

Then, a lot of times talk about what stage lights will do to colors, and how they will change them. There’s all of that, there’s that little bit of a short learning curve there of how you have to rethink ballet. But then also, I feel like, a big part for me is to make sure that even though I am talking them through these things, I am hoping that they will kind of compromise their designs a little bit to work for the stage, the stage lights, and ballet dancers.

At the same time, a big part of my job is to make sure that you don’t lose the DNA of Thom Browne. I mean, why would you have a ballet designed by Thom Browne, if it doesn’t look like Thom Browne in the end?

One of the things that I thought was a plus about these Fashion Galas is I remember when we went to the one with Humberto Leon, and he has just this huge fan base. They all came and some of them were sitting right in front of us, they were all cheering, and they were so excited. I heard them saying, “I had no idea, this is what a ballet was like.” So I felt like this whole new audience was being introduced to dance. I thought that was a great thing.

One of the pluses about the Fall Fashion Gala is it has brought in new audiences and it’s brought in younger audiences. Certainly, the one that we did the year before this last one, which was Gianna Reisen‘s ballet, she used Solange, who wrote the music for it. That brought in a whole new audience – much more diverse, much younger. You just hope that they continue to come back.

Right, exactly. That’s the hook. I know that the designers have learned so much from you, of course. But is there anything that you’ve learned from working with all these designers?

I’ve learned a lot of patience. I’ve gained an amazing respect for these fashion designers, how they work, and the teams that work with them. I’ve also learned a lot about having a team of people, because many times, we are dealing with fashion designers that our Fall Fashion Gala is a week or two, either before or after their Fall Fashion shows.

It gets a little hairy at that time, because many times, the designers are kind of off-limits to me. Because they are ensconced in their show. I became very familiar with their assistants and the team that works with them so that they’re able to continue our process while their fashion shows are happening.

I’d like to know about some of your career highlights, and that can be about these experiences with the Gala, but also throughout.

One, I have to go through that saying, and that was coming to New York City Ballet. Because there’s a small handful of these kinds of positions here in New York, much less in the United States. New York City Ballet is kind of at the top of that list, so for me to become Director of Costumes for New York City Ballet was a career highlight. That has proven to be true year after year.

Of course, the book, choreography, and couture, is a career highlight that it happened at all. It was something that I was surprised by but very much in awe of everything that went into it. I think also having my own business in New York City – coming to New York at a very young age and being precocious enough to think that I was going to open Marc Happel Limited in New York, and then have it be fairly successful for 12 years was a highlight as well. I just think that there are smaller highlights throughout the people that I’ve met, the people I’ve worked with, working on film projects, and the like, all of that adds up to an amazing forty-some years here in New York.

Yes, and the book is just exquisite.

Thank you.

The photography, everything from cover to cover.

Marc, what’s your favorite part about your job?

I think fittings. I would say, probably first would be meeting with designers and talking about what we’re going to do. I do love that. I love collaborating with them and talking with them. Hopefully, they’re open to suggestions that I have.

One of my favorite kinds of working relationships is with a designer who comes in and wants to know what I think. I’m only gonna give that when they ask for it. I don’t feel like it’s my job to just assume I’m going to tell them what it should be. If they ask, I’m more than happy to talk it through with them and I love that kind of thing.

Beyond that, I think that it’s the fittings that I love. Having our dancers in here is great, sometimes watching them react to what the costumes are can be incredibly positive and sometimes they’re the negative ones that you have to talk them through. Of course, dress rehearsals when you finally see it all on stage and it’s about to open is a very exciting time, and also kind of a sense of relief that you’ve gotten this on stage, it’s working, and you move forward from there.

It’s just remarkable. So the process of creating new pieces, I know I asked you about some of the pieces, like from Serenade. The ones that the ballet keeps going on and on for years. You said you don’t necessarily create new ones until you need to, those are the ones that are on repeat. What about the process when you’re creating something for a new Ballet?

At City Ballet, because there’s no story, there’s more importance in the costume, the music, and the dance.

That depends. Many times the choreographer will come in with a designer that they’ve worked with a lot. They’ll come in, and they will have either a suggestion of a designer that they would like to work with, or they know one they’ve worked with for many other projects.

They have a good working relationship, and they would like to see them design their ballet. So that’s usually the case, there are some times when a choreographer will come in, and if I know them well, they will ask me if I’d be interested. Of course, I always jump at that. There’s also been a couple of situations here.

Maybe this is a question that you are going to ask at some point, but there have been a couple of situations where the company has decided to take an existing ballet and freshen it up by giving it new costumes. Two examples that for me, were also career highlights, I have to say. One was Symphony in C, when Peter Martins decided that the costumes should be redesigned and he asked me to design them.

That was an incredible task for me. I was very flattered, I was a little freaked out because this is iconic. This is one of New York City Ballet’s iconic ballets. Peter decided that he wanted to have it redesigned, so we talked a lot about it. We talked about the fact that the color palette should stay this way – I felt it was important that it remained black and white. Then, we went on from there and Swarovski became very much a part of that project and a huge supporter. They have been a huge supporter of me and the costume shop here for many years now.

Another one was Tschaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2, which was redesigned a few years ago. That was another one that Peter just felt like the costumes had kind of run their course and it needed to be freshened up, and so I redesigned that.

Those two projects were, like I said, career highlights for me because I felt they were very successful. They continue to get a nice reaction when that curtain goes up which any designer hopes for. When the curtain goes up or if there’s applause, that’s something you’d love to hear.

Yes. Do you hear those gasps?

Right, exactly.

Will you walk us through the process of when you design the costumes?

It’s hard. Many times you’re looking at a blank piece of paper, which is one of the most intimidating things that can happen. I did a lot of research for Symphony in C and I did a lot of research on Barbara Karinska and her designs, but then I also looked at a lot of architectural research for that.

You start to come up with a kind of basic idea in your head. There’s a lot of sketching, a lot of throwing things away and crumpling the paper up. Because it just was like, “What was I thinking?” With Piano Concerto No. 2 there is also a lot of research about when that music was written, taking ideas from styles of dress during that period, and incorporating them into the design.

It’s a lot of trial and error until you finally feel like you’ve come up with something that you can put in front of Peter, and hopefully, he will react positively to it.

I guess you would take into consideration the bodies of the original dancers in the past and what the bodies of the dancers currently are.

Right, because it’s all of our proportion then and our dancers change over the years. That’s something that is becoming very clear this season because we have a lot of new male dancers who are incredibly tall. Suddenly, we have this whole crop of men that are like 6 foot 3 inches to 6 foot 4 inches, which we haven’t had before, that many. You have to take all of that into consideration. A lot of our women are also becoming much taller. We have Miriam Miller, Emily Kikta, and these taller female dancers who are beautiful.

When I went out there, they were taller. When the black and white photographs where they’re walking on the way to your costume shop with Suzanne Farrell and all of that crowd, that’s when I was there, and that they were pretty much all tall.

Yes. Also now, you have to take into consideration that there are going to be multiple casts of these ballets. One night, it could be danced by a female dancer that’s 5 foot 10 inches, but then the next time it might be danced by a female dancer that’s 5 foot 5 inches.

How do you do that? Do you make different costumes?

We make the costume. Especially our principals, I think it’s important to try to make a costume for each principal. So they have their own.

I know it’s fun, you’ve probably worked with Tiler Peck so many times. Now you know her, you know how to design typically for her.

Right, and how she’s gonna react. She hates sleeves.

Oh, she’s so adorable. I think her personality is so lovely, as well as her dance.

She hates the sleeve.

That’s so funny! Will you tell us about some examples of how you’ve seen dancers transform? How do the fashion and the costume allow them to get into the character that they’re dancing?

The one thing about most ballets here in City Ballet is there is no story, they’re abstract. So, character-wise, they’re going out as a principal female dancer, but there is no real character that they’re going out as. I think that what inspires them is suddenly putting on a costume by Carolina Herrera, or putting on a costume by Giles Deacon.

Giles Deacon is an amazing designer that I worked with and got back to twice. I do feel like he creates costumes that can give a dancer a feeling of character. He works with so many different periods and he combines them where he’ll combine silhouettes from various periods together in one costume, which I think is always very interesting and does give a dancer a feeling of character in some way. Even though there isn’t. 

Right. I feel like with City Ballet, because there’s no story, there’s more importance in the costume, the music, and the dance. Also, when they put on a costume knowing the people that came before them, they wore that throughout time. Let’s say Balanchine or whoever choreographed the original piece and things like that. So the costumes have more of an important role to me.

Right. Sometimes they do. I think a lot of our audiences, especially the older audiences and the real ballet audiences are very much distracted by costumes. I think that’s why, what we call “The Black and White Week”, which is the week where we do just black and white leotard ballets like Agon is amazing.

People often say to me, “We like those ballets because they have no costumes.” Which of course, then I say to them, “They do have costumes because someone decided to put them in black and white leotards and tights.” I also come from a theatrical background, so costumes for me are very important.

I think they can, even though a ballet is abstract, when that curtain goes up tell you who those people are. Paz de la Jolla is a ballet that when the curtain went up, the costumes designed by Reed & Harriet (Reid Bartelmeg and Harriet Jung), immediately told you that these dancers were Southern California Beach kind of thing. Humberto is the same thing, I think he can create a situation where it tells you that these people are young, kind of revolutionaries in a way. I do think it can work for ballet costumes. 

Maybe it’s more about the mood, setting a mood instead of a part of the story. 

Right, exactly.

Very Intelligent, I love it.

Mom got to spend a summer in High school in New York City at the School of American Ballet at City Ballet, and Marc, you were so sweet to have us at the shop. So do you want to talk about that experience at all? What was it like for you to go back there?

That was amazing. I kind of burst into tears when I saw some of those photographs in the very beginning, it was such an unexpected experience. You said go down to the sixth floor, and yes the lobby does look different now and everything.

I saw what was going on and I was, “The black leotard, the pink tights, the hair, and the bun.” Straight across the room, it’s so clean and so elegant. The epitome of a Ballet is nothing messy, I was so excited to see that this is the one place in my mind.

One place where people aren’t wearing all kinds of leotards and tights and just all kinds of messy stuff, there’s a time and a place for that. To me, that’s when you see the stark difference between the black leotard and tights.

That is changing a lot now once they get into the company because more and more companies across the United States and the world are becoming much more conscious of diversity and inclusion. So, we have started now, like many companies, where it used to be when you were younger, it was pink tights across the board.

All female dancers wore pink tights. That no longer exists unless a ballet is specifically designed with white tights like Diamonds. All our ballets are done in flesh-colored tights, so their tights are dyed to the dancer’s particular flesh color. We are becoming a company that includes many more colors, that’s becoming important. There are a lot of people out there, I know the old guard still really wants the pink tights back, they want that kind of uniformity.

It was wonderful for me to see the class & those students. By wearing a uniform, it suggests, “We’re all doing the same thing. You’re working hard, you’re acting, your skill, and everything.” Also, City Ballet has always been modern. So to me, the flesh tight is fabulous.

For me, people need to be able to express themselves.

It’s been a little bit of a bumpy road moving into flesh-colored tights because many of the dancers, even in the company, don’t like moving away from pink. It is such a part of being a ballet dancer.

Would something like The Nutcracker®? Is that the case or is that traditional? Is that still the pink tights?

No, that’s flesh-colored.

That is interesting. Thank you again so much for letting us come into the costume shop, that was so interesting. The woman who dyes the fabric to match the color.

Marc, will you take us inside the costume shop a little bit? And also, let’s talk Nutcracker, are you full force into Nutcracker now?

Sure, the dancers are back tomorrow. The Nutcracker rehearsal startup is full-fledged tomorrow, we start fittings tomorrow, right away. Every year, there is usually a large project for Nutcracker that we take care of.

Whether it be remaking all the flower costumes or remaking this year, for example, we’re remaking all the men’s hot chocolate costumes. Beyond that, of course, there are smaller projects. We always have pink and green sugar plums, at least two or three of those.

We’re also dealing with a lot of the children’s costumes in altering them to fit the kids. One thing that we did a few years ago, right after the pandemic, we couldn’t have kids. We couldn’t have kids and don’t ask me why now, because I don’t remember.

Maybe they couldn’t be vaccinated or something.

That’s it, yes. Because they couldn’t be vaccinated. We had to have kids who were old enough to be vaccinated, so we had to rebuild all the children’s clothes to fit these larger kids. We have a whole set of costumes, especially for the girls, which are teenage-sized party dresses.

A lot of those were made though at the time so that we could specifically alter them because now we’re back to having little kids again. A lot of that’s going on, hot chocolate is as I said, we start fittings tomorrow. We all work up towards the week of Thanksgiving.

We have dress rehearsals on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, and then Friday afternoon or after Thanksgiving and it opens Friday night. Thanksgiving week is a little bit of a non-holiday for us around here.

It’s so exciting. Will you quickly walk us through and they’ll see in the video, the different stations in the shop, and the different people who are working there?

Right, we have two Drapers usually; we have a men’s Draper and we have a women’s Draper. Right now, we don’t have a women’s Draper, it’s been very hard after the pandemic to find people. Because I have a career in draping, I’ve kind of been stepping in as well.

Many times, I’m kind of doing two jobs at the same time, which is a little tiring. Then, we have an amazing team of stitchers and machine operators who also do handwork – incredible artisans. We have two cutters that take the patterns that have been created by the Drapers and cut everything out to be assembled.

We have a shopper, who goes out into the world and finds everything that we might need both fabric, trim, and that kind of thing. Then, we have Marie, who is our incredible dyer painter, who is a magician, and I depend on her so much. She has her dye laboratory back there. Then, we have a shop manager who keeps us all running. 

I think some people might picture it as sort of a dark kind of old space, with all the costumes and everything. But it’s so clean, modern, and brightly lit.

Right. That’s the one thing we’re very lucky with here is that we have this wall of windows that look out on the Hudson River. We’re very lucky because like you say, many costume shops you go to, I don’t know why, but they’re often very dark. Even if there are windows, it seems like the windows are usually covered up. We have these kinds of almost floor-to-ceiling windows that are just fabulous.

So fabulous.

Okay, we’re gonna wrap this up. But I was curious, you’re probably gonna say every day is different, but what does the day in your life look like?

It depends on where we are. Some days are about doing research, and some days they’re all fittings. Tomorrow is going to be a day of fittings with all of our hot chocolate men.

It’s a lot of emailing answers to questions that are coming through. You can see behind me, it’s a lot of looking at old costumes to decide if we’re going to rebuild them, how much we can do of it, how we’re going to do a process that was done twenty or thirty years ago.

It was done one way and maybe we don’t have the facilities to do it that way, or sometimes we have more options that we can recreate in a cheaper, quicker way. I would say that my day is always kind of a research day of some kind, whether it’s looking at old costumes, looking at new sketches, fittings on dancers, that kind of thing. 

What is the difference between the costume shop and the wardrobe department at City Ballet?

That’s a lot of times what people don’t realize. The New York City Ballet costume shop is here to produce costumes and build new costumes, try to take old costumes, and make them more usable by replacing part of them, replacing a skirt, and re-alining, that kind of thing. It’s all about construction, whether it’s new or old.

Our amazing wardrobe departments, and an incredible wardrobe department, both women’s and men’s Wardrobe Departments are there to keep the shows running. They take over in the afternoon for dress rehearsals and running the shows at night. Doing any kind of preparing things for dry cleaning, or preparing things for washing. They are responsible for the upkeep of the show, once we’ve handed it over to them.

That’s so nice. You don’t have to do both. That would be too much.

I don’t have to do both, I do have to kind of oversee both.

That’s amazing.

At the end of the day, I usually go home.

What is it like for you to watch a ballet where you have designed the costumes?

It’s thrilling. It’s an amazing thing.

That’s great. We’re so excited, we got a glimpse inside your world.

We’re so proud of you. I know you’re excited.

Thank you so much.

It’s just an exquisite book, it is.

Thank you.

Thank you, Marc. Thank you so much for coming on The Style That Binds Us Podcast and we hope to see you soon!

Of course, my pleasure. Thank you. Have a good holiday!

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