The Creation of Gatsby – Behind the Seams

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Behind the Seams

By Rebekah Levin

Banish those expectations of sparkly tutus and brocaded tunics (and save them for our next ballet Cinderella) because you won’t find them in Gatsby.

True, Gatsby is a ballet, but when it comes to costumes… we certainly aren’t going to make this a classical ballet. -((You know, those types of ballets whose main characters, regardless of living nowhere near tulle distributor, will burst out unexpectedly in the midst of a jungle or farmhouse in a pristine bodice and tutu. Meanwhile, the supporting cast, clad in contextually-accurate attire, look on approvingly as if this sort of thing happens every day.)) –

In other words, can you imagine Daisy and Jordan frolicking in tutus amid people dressed as flappers? In my very humble opinion… how ridiculous!

Costumes impact the mood and movement of the dancers. This is why it is important to have a skilled costume designer who knows how to both embody the setting of the story and nature of the character into a costume that allows movement and flatters the dancers’ lines. Quite a tall order, indeed!

Elisa Saether has been our costumer for the new ballet, and boy, are we glad she can combine both freedom of movement and theatrics into gorgeous costume pieces!


Elisa, What sort of research did you have to do beforehand?

Elisa- I started research in January, looking at photos from the prohibition era, real flappers, Vaudeville performers, and dress construction from the 1920’s. We decided to use silk chiffon so the boxy silhouette would be transparent and not hide the dancers’ bodies.

What were the challenges about making these costumes as opposed to costumes just for the stage or just for dancewear?

Elisa- I have designed for dance before, but never for a ballet production. Stretch was always an important factor to allow for movement. But, here we had silk chiffon, no stretch, loose fitting drop waist dresses that needed to accommodate all those lifts and stresses. I needed to make something both delicate and durable.

This job was really a challenge… There were moments I felt I was trying to do the impossible, with most solutions bringing new problems. But that is when I get most creative, trying to solve a puzzle like this.

What was your favorite part of the costuming process?

Elisa- My favorite part was definitely watching the dresses come to life on the dancers. It has been such a treat to get to work with the whole company.

It has been an utter treat working with you, Elisa! See Elisa’s handiwork swirling around the dancers THIS WEEKEND — March 19th and 20th– at the Eissey Campus Theatre!


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