Tweed & Taffeta: Marjory Fielding (Part Two)
In part two of this special edition of Tweed & Taffeta, Marjory Fielding, Wardrobe Supervisor with the renowned National Ballet of Canada gives helpful advice on the careful considerations designers need to take when crafting costumes for dancers.
Q: Costuming can have a profound impact on a performance. Why is it important that costuming be ‘just right’?
There are several levels of costuming perfection. Each costume tells both the dancer and the audience about the character being portrayed but each is also a visual element of the larger story on stage. Both should be “just right” because both support the dancer’s performance.
Each costume is worn by a very talented person, who has a unique opinion about how they look and feel in a costume. The design of a costume is rarely changed because a dancer doesn’t like it, but accommodations can be made so that the dancer is as comfortable as possible. Their performance will then reflect that comfort.
I’ve costumed performers in many disciplines and have found that dancers are the quickest to understand their clothes. Most dancers immediately know how to make the most of their costume, how to “work it” because they know their own body’s so well.
Q: What special considerations need to be taken when creating costumes for dancers?
Dancers have to be able to move. They prefer costumes that don’t mask the intricate choreography they’ve spent weeks trying to perfect.
A ballerina’s bodice needs to be firm enough or tight enough to stay in place when she’s grabbed by the torso and lifted high into the air. Strapless bodice designs look nice on paper but they never stay in place on a woman who’s constantly moving and being partnered.
Dancers need sleeve gussets so they can easily extend their arms. Men’s tunics and jackets need to be fitted but loose enough to fall back down after they’ve raised their arms over their heads or partnered a ballerina.
Think about safety. Never use fabrics or accessories that the dancer’s fingers could get caught in. Never include hard objects like a jewel on the end of a sash or a long necklace because when the dancer spins those things can become lethal weapons. If you have to use the aforementioned items make sure they are controlled (tacked down) so they can’t hurt anyone.
Don’t make long flowing costumes out of stretch fabrics – if someone steps on the hem it will just keep stretching and stretching and stretching…
Q: What would people be surprised to learn about your role at the National Ballet of Canada?
The amount of time I spend on the computer. No one gets into costuming because they want to become an expert in Excel but I have found the importance of record keeping grows all the time. Our company is sixty years old now so one of my goals is to create new systems that will allow us to easily pass information into the future.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
I love the first moments on the stage when the dancers make everything come alive.
In addition, the entire Production Department at the National Ballet of Canada produces work we can all be proud of. The Wardrobe Department is staffed by extremely talented and dedicated people who care deeply about our costumes and the dancers who wear them. Mostly, I love the creative process and working with great designers who lead us into new worlds.