Can you imagine the work it would take to create hundreds of Swan Lake Ballet costumes for a performance? Even one professional ballet costume takes weeks to make. Imagine hundreds! I am curious to find out what the various roles and costume needs for dancers performing in the Swan Lake Ballet might mean to a costume designer.
The Swan Lake Ballet is one of the most beloved and cherished of all the ballets. The costuming for this ballet performance has certain standards of design and so I decided to contact Costume Creations to get a better idea of what a designer has to keep in mind when making costumes to be used in the Swan Lake Ballet.
All of the following information about roles and costume requirements come from Monica Newell of Costume Creations UK.
Odette’s costume is supposed to look like a swan, so a real, living swan must be studied and copied. The layout of the animal’s feather’s and the natural way the feathers grow will determine the design of the costume.
Odile’s black swan costume will have the same characteristics as the white Odette costume. Both Odette and Odile will wear head dresses made of swan feathers.
The Swan Corp
For the corp members of the Swan Lake ballet, care must be taken that each one has a costume of excellent quality and not just the principal dancers. Choosing the proper shade of white is important. White fabric comes in many different shade variations. The materials used should be matte white with pure white tulle for the tutu skirt. What looks like white tulle can have blue or grey undertones which are undesirable in this ballet.
The male and female dancers who portray the peasants in Act I will need the correct period costumes.
In the Swan Lake Ballet, Siegfried plays the part of a prince and is also the lead male dancer. The costume for Siegfried will have to reflect his royal lineage and should appear regal.
The costume requirements for the role of a queen mean using rich fabrics that result in a regal costume of elegance and taste. I don’t design costumes, but it might fun to think of costume ideas for a queen!
Act III of Swan Lake involves the gathering of the nations and all of the costumes need to reflect the customary dress of that country at that time in history. Countries such as Hungary, Russia, Spain, and Poland are represented and every detail in costuming is important; hats, boots, shoes, length of dress, shoulder decorations, and more. Fabrics are chosen with attention to how they move on stage.
Tiara’s and Head Dresses
The beautiful ballerinas dancing in Swan Lake wear head dresses made from feathers. Care has to be taken when constructing this type of head dress as it can easily look like giant ear muffs on the dancers head.
Swarovski crystals that embellish costumes must be applied with an eye for elegance. Crystals used in strategic areas highlight the dancers movement and make the costume magical yet elegant.
Too much embellishment, feather overload, and tiaras added to the mix will resemble Las Vegas showgirl and not beautiful, magical swan. There is much to think about when designing costumes. Every designer keeps the finished effect in mind.
How lucky are ballet audience members to enjoy the visual delights of well-planned and beautifully constructed costumes!