The Secret to Designing a Snowflake Costume

By Alex Dellaportas, Artistic Director of SYDC, and Sarah Mann, costume designer for The Nutcracker
JANUARY 16 2017

“My major source of inspiration came from images and footage of falling snowflakes.”

Costumes are magical things. They can transform us into different people, different creatures and even snowflakes. We wear costumes from when we’re little, whether that be for Halloween, putting on shows for family, going to parties or just as a hobby. But for a dancer, costumes are a part of the job description.

So, I asked our costume designer for The Nutcracker, Sarah Mann, what it was like to design and create the Snowflake costumes for our performances. Sarah made and designed the Snowflake costumes pretty much fully on her own. Whilst also dancing a lead role.

Oh, and she’s 18.

How did you go about first designing the Snowflake costumes? What was your process?
Initially, I explored the ways that the shape of a snowflake could be placed upon the body, whether this considered of several clusters of snowflakes or one singular snowflake. Through these sketches, it became clear that focusing on a single snowflake was far more effective, allowing the portrayal of a distinct snowflake from an audience perspective.

As I wanted to create a more abstract and unique design, I constructed a snowflake from a bird’s-eye view. This meant that although the audience would see just the tips of the snowflake hanging from the dancer’s waist, when turning and jumping the shape would be raised to reveal the full snowflake shape, giving an individual and eye-catching design.

I also felt it was important to highlight the fact that no two snowflakes are identical. This allowed me to create slight variations in the costumes, thus accommodating the vast range of ages and body shapes of the dancers and emphasising the uniqueness of each snowflake.

Did you get inspiration from anywhere? Why did you choose the materials and colours that you did?
My major source of inspiration came from images and footage of falling snowflakes. This inspired me to construct a design that resembled the soft and elegant way snowflakes fall whilst still encompassing their sharp and angular nature. This is shown mainly in the snowflake skirt which consists of different types of material.

For example, I incorporated white crystal organza to show their transparent shimmering and falling characteristics. Whereas the use of stiff tulle demonstrated the angular and harsh nature of the snowflake and their environment.




What was the process of actually making the costumes?
The costumes were constructed in two parts; the skirt and the bodice. I began by making the skirt. This consisted of cutting out and edging nearly 250 petal shape pieces. These were then individually sewn onto an elasticised waste band which were then placed over five large petal panels which constructed the base of the skirt.

For the bodice, a nude leotard was used as the base which was then draped with see-through material to develop the transparent and ethereal nature of a snowflake. The straps were then designed individually to suit each dancers body type and costume changing time. The bodice was then embellished with small lace snowflakes and beaded motifs. Lastly, the skirt was attached strategically to the bodice providing optimal movement for the dancers.

What did you enjoy most about designing the costumes?
Making a mess of mum’s lounge room and leaving tiny sparkles EVERYWHERE.

What did it feel like to see the costumes being worn by real dancers on a stage?
To see my creations on stage was an experience that I will forever be thankful to Spark Youth Dance Company for. Although I am quite critical of my designs and often want to continue developing them, upon seeing the snowflakes on stage I was very proud and honoured to have been given this opportunity. I would like to thank the entire company for sparking my passion of costume design and showing me that anything is possible, no matter your age.

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