A Closer Look at the Costumes of ‘The Nutcracker’
We sat down with Ellie Cotey, The Joffrey Ballet's Costume Manager, to discuss the initial creation process of The Nutcracker costumes and how the pieces have evolved overtime
Joffrey Ballet: Can you talk a bit about your role and experience here at the Joffrey Ballet?
Ellie Cotey: I am the costume manager and I've been at the Joffrey for eight seasons. As the costume manager, I do everything. Fittings, cutting, patterning, shopping, laundry. I run shows at the theater, help with quick changes, alterations, anything and everything to do with the clothes.
JB: The Joffrey Ballet commissioned this piece from Christopher Wheeldon back in 2016. What did that initial creation process look like for the costume room?
EC: The initial creation process for the Nutcracker costumes was pretty intense. We had a short period of time to make a large amount of costumes. I worked closely with Christopher Wheeldon and had a lot of conversations with props and a lot of conversations with the rehearsal directors, to just figure out how the choreography and the movement was going to work with the costumes.
JB: How has the process evolved over the years?
EC: That first year, first two years, you're just getting it on stage. And there isn't a lot of time for finessing and really making things work as good as they possibly can. It's been fun over the last couple years, and even looking to the next couple years ahead, to keep the costumes in really good shape and just keep improving it.
JB: What do your days consist of now in the costume room now?
EC: Now with the Nutcracker being five years old, we're rebuilding things already. We're remaking tutus, tights, and walnuts. We're fitting some of the original costumes that still exist. The costumes really have to do two things; they have to look like the design, because we want the designer to be happy with the visual, but they also need to be able to move. We use a lot of stretch fabric and sort of sneak it in places. It's very satisfying watching the costumes age and mature over time.
JB: Have any of the costumes changed?
EC: One of our updates for the Nutcracker this year that we're really excited about is that the walnuts are going to have striped tights. In the past, they had black tights. I think they're going to be really cute, and we're really excited about it.
JB: We heard you had to advocate for that.
EC: Yeah. Well, not too hard, but I was whispering about striped tights for a while now in artistic and in production. And then finally in the last production meeting, they were like, email Christopher Wheeldon. And so, I did, and he said that it sounded adorable. So, we're going with it.
JB: What do you hope that the striped tights add to the piece?
EC: We just felt like the nuts needed a little something extra. They're getting new shells this year. We were just thinking about them a lot. And the black tights just felt like they needed an upgrade. When we found the brown and black stripe, that was a deal breaker.