What was the conceptual starting point for the Cinderella costume designs?
We started with 1950’s haute couture. We chose haute couture because, as the highest form of garment making in the European tradition, it is incredibly beautiful, and beautiful is probably the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they think ‘Cinderella’.
But it’s not just about the beauty — there is an incredible amount of skill that goes into making haute couture. It also has the quality of making people think. Really good haute couture can look a certain way at first glance, but when you look again it might reveal something completely different. That’s what the characters in Cinderella are like. The two stepsisters, Clorinda and Tisbe, are beautiful to look at but they are ugly and mean spirited on the inside. This is where the layers come in.
What inspired the haute couture route?
I come from a fashion background and so even though I have worked in costume design for over 25 years, haute couture is the well from which I draw inspiration time and time again. When you picture a Cinderella dress, it often looks like a 1950’s ball gown.
The 1950’s are also interesting because they reflect a time when women were strictly expected to have a certain place. This helps us update the time period Rossini wrote Cinderella in (1817) without losing its thematic significance. In the opera, Don Magnifico is an overbearing father who is trying to get his daughters married. The two daughters are wrapped up in fashion all the time because they are told their looks are all they’re worth.
What kind of colours will we see in the costume designs?
The costumes have really sumptuous colours; in 1950s haute couture they used very complex colour schemes, so a lot of tertiary colours like pinks and purples. We have amped that up for the stepsisters, since they have gone to the far end of “bigger is better” in their clothes. I’m using lots of silks, with 50’s patterns that are much bolder and brighter than you would normally see. This is partly also because our stage is so big that you have to expand what the audience can see.
How do the costumes complement and contrast each other?
With each costume, you get to know something about the characters. The two stepsisters are all about image and trying to be noticed, so their costumes are bright, colourful and bold. Everything including their shoes, bags, and accessories are noticeable. Even within the sisters, there is a contrast: Tisbe is more angular, and Clorinda is far more fluffy and feminine. Cinderella, on the other hand, is much more of a natural beauty. For her we looked a lot more at the natural beauties of the time period like Audrey Hepburn and Princess Grace Kelly. Cinderella isn’t cut out for all this artifice, and her costumes reflect that.
What can Edmonton audiences look forward to with the production of Cinderella?
We are very fortunate to present a new production of Rossini’s opera! We have a fantastic team, including local seamstresses, cutters, and more who will build the costumes here in the shop, and also work directly with singers and their body types to adjust the costumes as rehearsals begin.
The designs for Cinderella are quite magical and fresh. The production elements give singers lots of room to move around and play and be comedic. I think Cinderella will be a fun little treat in the middle of winter for our Edmonton audiences.