Jane Wood has been designing costumes for 30 years. Her hands have sewn, stitched and even painted the elaborate outfits seen on stage during Ballet Victoria’s performances.
She’s spent the last six weeks working full time to design and create the colourful and creative outfits that will be worn in the ballet’s performance of Alice in Wonderland, on this Friday and Saturday (May 17-18) at the Royal Theatre.
Wood sat down with Black Press to discuss her work as she was putting the final touches on the Cheshire Cat’s orange and purple tutu before the recent Tea for Tutu performance at St. Andrew’s Church’s Kirk Hall.
Attendees will be able to pick out their favourite characters from the English novel turned Disney classic during the performance on May 17 and 18, including Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, the White Rabbit and many more.
Wood learned to sew from her mother and all throughout her schooling, eventually moving into the costume world when her daughter took up ballet.
“Of course you get roped into doing the costumes if you know how to sew and it kind of grew from there,” she says. While some costumes can be tedious if there’s multiples, there isn’t any outfit she’s disliked creating. “It’s always something different, it’s always a challenge and you get to make things that you wouldn’t otherwise make for any other reason. It’s creative and it’s fun.”
One of her favourite pieces to make is always the tutu, despite the fact they usually take three or four days, depending on how decorative the skirt is. “They’re always fun, but a lot of work.”
Usually ideas take shape after a discussion with Paul Destrooper, Victoria Ballet’s artistic director, but sometimes a piece of fabric will catch her eye.
“When I saw [the White Rabbit’s] fabric, I thought OK he’s going to be an Elizabethan bunny, and so that’s what he turned into,” Wood says. “Sometimes things kind of happen accidentally or they just evolve.”
Adding to the creative challenge, the costumes have to be designed so the dancer wearing it can have complete freedom of movement.
“For men’s costumes, the sleeves will be constructed separately on a stretchy undervest with a vest over top,” explains Wood. “So when they move their arms the whole thing doesn’t go up.”
The outfits also have to be pretty tight so that during lifts or other large movements the costume stays on the dancer and doesn’t move around.
“It’s a little different from theatre or regular clothing for sure.”
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