How to dress a fairy, a queen, a prince and a princess

15 Jan 2013

Many of us suffer a wardrobe crisis when we get ready of a morning. Fortunately for the fabled characters in Victorian Opera's upcoming pantomime Sleeping Beauty, Set and Costume Designer, Julie Nelson, has it sorted for them.

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Sleeping Beauty costume detail, designed by Julie Nelson

What does a princess in a magical kingdom wear to her 16th birthday? How does a princess still look so good after sleeping for a hundred years? Which wand should a fairy take with her on a jaunt to the castle? These are the difficult questions that I have to face in the line of duty!

When you're designing clothes for street-wear, you have to consider that a person will be wearing them. But in costume design it's more than a person wearing it - it's a character! What they wear has to not only reflect that character's persona, but be an extension of it.

There are so many factors that have to be considered in the way that a costume appears on stage. In many ways it has to be larger than life - fabrics and colours will come up entirely different under stage light, and it's important to show that your queen or princess is regal; even from a few rows back. Of course, you also have to ensure that a performer is able to move freely and easily.

The cast are so talented, and spend so much energy portraying their various characters. All we hope to do is make the job easier for them, and for the audience, by helping to create the sense of magic on stage that transports us from a theatre, to another world.

I learnt a lot from designing the costumes for Victorian Opera's previous pantomime, the sell-out season of Cinderella. One thing in particular struck me while I was watching Suzanne Johnston in the role of Fairy Godmother Ticketty-Boo greeting young members of the audience in the theatre's foyer.

For the young children who were about to have what was likely to be their first experience of opera, Ticketty-Boo's extravagant dress was irresistible to touch. Since everyone's favourite Fairy Godmother is returning for Sleeping Beauty, I thought it was the perfect chance to ramp up the intricacy of her dress.

There's a whole new level of texture and detail that can be seen up close, which I think be very enchanting for the young (and young at heart).

I'd like to think we might be inspiring the next generation of costume designers.

Julie Nelson, Set and Costume Designer, Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty is part of Victorian Opera's Season 2013.