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CINDERELLA’s costumes make her the belle of the ball

Rogers and Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA is bringing the ball to San Diego this weekend, December 1st – 3rd at the San Diego Civic Theatre.  To get in the festive mood, and help those potential princesses plan their gown choices here is a quick question and answer with the multi award winning costume designer William Ivey Long who also designed CINDERELLA.

Hayden Stanes, Tatyana Lubov and the company of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA. © Carol Rosegg

Let’s talk about Cinderella!

WIL – See, there’s a color scheme, there’s nuance, there’s sort of a period-ish Breughel. This I call the “Catherine de Medici,” which is Shakespeare, but in France. So, that’s my little cheeky response of explaining what period it is; but then, of course, since you have armor and dragons, it has to go back a little earlier. It’s a fairy tale. In fact, that’s the period: fairy tale.

The whole world of Cinderella takes place in the forest. There are dragons and maidens collecting mushrooms. And when you start with the forest, that means everything’s growing, flora and fauna, and so, by extension, butterflies and moths. For instance, Crazy Marie begins as a moth; she’s the crazy lady, bag lady, if you will, of the forest. And then, of course, she transforms into a butterfly

And then Cinderella – the idea is that all the changing is done by a magic wand spinning her around. So, I tried to include the spinning in all these sketches, so you constantly saw movement. And doesn’t that sort of look like you’re whipping up a merengue? Looks like it tastes like a merengue, her dress at the ball, doesn’t it? All egg whites!

Leslie Jackson and Tatyana Lubov in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA. © Carol Rosegg

So how do these beautiful, artistic sketches turn into practical, pragmatic garments?

WIL – The most fun and glorious time for the designer is when “once upon a time everything is possible.” But, the minute you have to say, “Oh, what is it? Is it this or this? Will the hand slip through? Will the quick change happen? Will it last eight shows a week? How about that fabric, is it gonna last eight shows a week for a year? How do you launder it?”

And then you have the crazy thing of: how do we do the magic transformations? Which, of course, I would have to kill you, if I told you! There’s sad little Cinderella, in the cinders, you see – all sad. And then the Fairy Godmother twirls around and there’s an interim…I call this the ectoplasm moment! And then because, remember, magic is all around you, and in front of your very eyes, she turns into this!

The company of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA. © Carol Rosegg

How many costumes did you end up designing for Cinderella? Do you even have a count?

WIL – There are 330 costumes in the building and that doesn’t include the understudies. That includes all the swings, ‘cuz we have four swings; two men, two women. And they, of course, have all the tracks and they have the most number of costumes, because they have to fit in at moment’s notice – you know, sometimes mid-act or mid-scene! Happens all the time. That’s a lot of clothes to keep track of!

Q – So, you’ve got 30 people that you have to fit these 330 costumes on. What is that process like? And, I’m assuming that when you meet the flesh and muscles and bones, you have to change stuff, right?

WIL – Absolutely. Every performer, every dancer is different. Each body can do different things. So the more you know about the people you know, that’s good. The people who’ve just come to New York and this is their first Broadway show, you’re still learning their body types and what they can do. In every fitting, I say, “Have you gotten to scene so-and-so, where you do the something? Would you do that in this mock-up, in this muslin?”

I also say “no tears after a fitting.” Everyone has to be happy. Not just happy, but thrilled. So I ask them questions, “now you, as this character, how do you see your neckline?” And in the ball gowns, many of them, especially the first ones who came, I let them pick their color. I always give the redheads the first choice, because the redheads are hardest to match! They need to own these clothes, because they’re clothes, not costumes. Very important, very important; because remember, they’re the ones interpreting this character, so they’ve gotta tell me what seems right.

Check out all of these amazing costumes at CINDERELLA is bringing the ball to San Diego this weekend, December 1st – 3rd at the San Diego Civic Theatre!  For tickets and show time information go to

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