The biggest wardrobe in ballet

Sir Peter Wright’s dazzling production of The Sleeping Beauty returns to Birmingham Hippodrome.

The Sleeping Beauty is one of the grandest ballets ever created, with a classical score by Tchaikovsky and original choreography by Marius Petipa.The opulent world of Imperial Russian ballet, with its marvellous mixture of virtuoso dance, fairy tale characters and dazzling spectacle, has delighted audiences for over a hundred years. Sir Peter Wright’s 1984 production for Birmingham Royal Ballet, with designs by Philip Prowse, is acclaimed as one of the best in the world.

Resplendent in a shimmering palette of blush pink and gold, the wardrobe of The Sleeping Beauty is the largest and most complex of any ballet in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s repertory. The expert costume and wig departments begin work as soon as the ballet is announced, preparing themselves for months of repairing and renovating original costumes, dressing wigs and ponytails, fitting new costumes on dancers and ensuring every fine detail will be ready for the opening night of The Sleeping Beauty.

The Sleeping Beauty wardrobe – facts and figures:

The Sleeping Beauty is Birmingham Royal Ballet’s biggest production in terms of costumes and wigs, and the only which requires an entire articulated lorry just for wardrobe.

There are 66 wigs, 31 ponytails and one beard in The Sleeping Beauty, all prepared and applied by a dedicated wig department.

There are 40 rails of costumes and 17 wicker skips in The Sleeping Beauty wardrobe – including four rails of Princess Aurora tutus alone.

The dancer playing Princess Aurora wears three tutus throughout the ballet. With nine ballerinas cast in the lead role, each with their own complete set of costumes, the wardrobe team must prepare 27 Aurora tutus.

It takes approximately one week to make a tutu base, or skirt, and about four weeks to complete the entire process. There are usually three fittings with the dancer who will be wearing the tutu.

The court lady dresses weigh just over a stone each, and the dress for the evil fairy Carabosse weighs much more.

Many of the original costumes are still in use today, including Birmingham Royal Ballet Assistant Director Marion Tait’s own Princess Aurora tutu.

Throughout the run of The Sleeping Beauty, the costume staff can spend up to 3 hours each day repairing costumes.

The Sleeping Beauty produces so much laundry that the washing machines are in constant use throughout the show.

The wardrobe includes eight baskets of shoes – some ballerinas will use ten pairs of pointe shoes or more throughout the tour.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of The Sleeping Beauty is at Birmingham Hippodrome 13th-24th February. Tickets

Pics – Bill Cooper