Dean Mogle holds the white and black swan design sketches for CCM's production of Swan Lake.

From Sketch to Stage: The Making of CCM’s ‘Swan Lake’ Costumes

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is a shortage of tutu makers in the world, said CCM Professor and Head of the Costume Design and Technology Program Dean Mogle, who faced the daunting task of designing costumes for Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet.

CCM is working to fix that shortage by training the next generation of costume designers and technicians, whose work will debut on stage in the conservatory’s first ballet production to have costumes designed and built in-house.

A timeless tale of love, magic and mystery, Swan Lake will grace the Corbett Auditorium stage from April 22-24, marking the second time in CCM’s nearly 150-year history that a full-length story ballet has been included in the Mainstage Series.

Costuming for CCM's 'Swan Lake.' Photo by Ryan Strand.

Staff and students within the Costume Design and Technology program have worked on the ‘Swan Lake’ costumes for the past 18 months.

Presented by CCM’s Department of Dance, the ballet uses three different casts and the principal roles are all double cast ­— which is challenging for the costume shop students and staff responsible for ensuring the pieces fit each dancer correctly.

“You have to understand what dancers go through—what they need,” Mogle said. “Balance becomes really important.”

Costume designers and technicians must consider the weight of the fabrics and headpieces so the dancer can retain their natural balance. There is also limited “real estate” on the costume for artistic expression or characterization, Mogle said. If a female dancer needs to be lifted, safety dictates the fabric around her waist can’t be too slick and can’t get caught on anything.

“The ballet world is a totally different beast.”

Costuming for CCM's 'Swan Lake.' Photo by Ryan Strand.

Newly designed costumes for the Hungarian Czardas in Act III of ‘Swan Lake,’ made by costume students and staff. To the far right is Prince Siegfried’s jacket, made by Jessica Barksdale.

Mogle, with a team of students and faculty within the Costume Design and Technology program, has worked on the Swan Lake costumes for the past 18 months. They’ve borrowed and modified some costumes from a previous CCM performance of Brigadoon and the Broadway production of Cyrano, The Musical. Costumes for the principal and specialty roles in the ballet are newly designed and made.

Iconic white tutus, bodices, vibrant dresses and rich fabrics have taken over their workshop. The costumes are designed in the traditional style typically associated with the classic ballet. CCM plans to reuse and rent out some of them after the performance.

Costuming for CCM's 'Swan Lake.' Photo by Ryan Strand.

Jessica Barksdale is building Mogle’s design for Prince Siegfried’s costume, which will be worn in Acts III and IV.

Mogle, who previously designed costumes for the Cincinnati Ballet’s The Nutcracker, watched five or six different productions of Swan Lake to prepare for his costume designs. The pieces are still evolving on a daily basis, he said.

“Since we are making the production to last about 30 or 40 years, we don’t ever want to get too wild and crazy with the concept because it is pretty traditional,” Mogle said. “The things that really change in a traditional ballet like this are going to be the specialty characters.”

Those include the newly designed and made pieces that will be worn at the ball in Act III, where the Queen invites potential wives from Poland, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Naples and Poland to match with her son, Prince Siegfried.

Costuming for CCM's 'Swan Lake.' Photo by Ryan Strand.

A sketch and sleeve of Von Rothbart’s Act III costume, made by Erin Winslow.

At the ball, Prince Siegfried will wear a newly designed black and gold jacket made by Jessica Barksdale, first-year costume technology graduate student. Rothbart, the evil sorcerer who cursed the prince’s love Odette, will wear an intricately detailed costume made by senior costume technology student, Erin Winslow, as part of her capstone project.

Barskdale and Winslow are also making the iconic white and black swan costumes for leading female characters Odette and Odile. Associate Professor of Costume Technology Regina Truhart is managing all costume production for the ballet.

Costuming for CCM's 'Swan Lake.' Photo by Ryan Strand.

The in-progress white and black swan costumes for characters Odette and Odile are being made by Jessica Barksdale and Erin Winslow, respectively.

After 27 years at CCM, Mogle is familiar with the 30,000 costume pieces the conservatory has in stock. Luckily, the costume department was able to pull pieces from past performances of Brigadoon and Cyrano to modify them for courtier and peasant costumes in Swan Lake.

The costume department dyed some of the costumes in bright jewel tones and added details such as sashes, sleeves, aprons and hats. Net petticoats were used to make the costumes lighter and easier to dance in.

Costuming for CCM's 'Swan Lake.' Photo by Ryan Strand.

Costumes from the CCM production of ‘Brigadoon’ are being modified for the female peasants in Act I of ‘Swan Lake.’

“Every time we do [Swan Lake], we’ll add more to it and rely less on our costume stock,” Mogle said, adding that when the ballet is performed again in 6 years they will likely build new peasant costumes.

“That’s how some companies do it anyway. They’ll use tutus from many kinds of shows. Pulling together a show like this from all of these different places is a great exercise.”

Acquiring materials is one hurdle but then, of course, the costumes must actually fit.

It helps that musical theatre bodies and dancer bodies are similar in stature, Mogle said. It would cost around $5,000 to reproduce one of the Cyrano costumes today.

Costuming for CCM's 'Swan Lake.' Photo by Ryan Strand.

Costume technicians included three clasp sizes on the ‘Swan Lake’ bodices so they can be adjusted for different dancers.

With three different casts, and double-cast principals, it was important to make the costumes interchangeable for different dancers. The technicians included three clasp sizes for the bodices to make them more adjustable and, in some cases, built extra costumes.

The process and pieces are evolving daily, with more adjustments expected after fittings and the dress rehearsals. A beautiful design can look perfect on a mannequin but flawed when put on a body that needs to breathe, dance and kick. That is why it’s important for the costuming students to learn each step in the creative process, said Mogle.

 “The whole focus of our program is teaching design and technology so designers know how to make stuff and makers know how to design stuff. So they all have the same sensibility as to how things should look and how they should be handled. If the knowledge base in those two roles isn’t strong then things fall apart.”

After the designs are sketched, the appropriate fabrics need to be found, Mogle said of the costuming process. Then there’s making the patterns and cutting them out of the cloth and stitching them together. There’s also fabric painting and dying and mask and jewelry making.

“Each one of those is a profession in itself,” Mogle said. “The more skills you have as a technician and the more kinds of plays and operas and ballets that you can design as a designer, your job market opens up. It’s a good part of training and real life experience.”

Co-directed by Dance Department Chair Jiang Qi and Associate Professor of Dance Deirdre Carberry, the Mainstage Series production features students from CCM’s BFA Ballet program. The lavishly staged spectacle features accompaniment by CCM’s lauded Concert Orchestra under the direction of Assistant Professor of Music Aik Khai Pung.


Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake runs April. 22 – 24 in Corbett Auditorium. Tickets are $27-31 for adults, $17-20 for non-UC students and $15-18 UC students with a valid ID.

Tickets can be purchased in person at the CCM Box Office, over the telephone at 513-556-4183 or online at


CCM Season Presenting Sponsor and Musical Theatre Program Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation

Mainstage Season Production Sponsor: Macy’s

Community Partner: ArtsWave

Production Sponsors: Rosemary & Mark Schlachter, Teri Jory & Seth Geiger and Graeter’s

Story by Rebecca Butts

CCM News CCM Slideshows Faculty Fanfare Student Salutes

Rick Pender Hails CCM’s ‘Into the Woods’ As ‘The Season’s Best Musical’

Rick Pender takes a look back at Cincinnati’s 2011-12 theatre season in the current issue of CityBeat and singles out CCM’s Into the Woods as “the season’s best musical.” Congratulations to everyone involved with this production, which also received a record number of awards from the League of Cincinnati Theatres!

CCM News Student Salutes

CCM’s ‘Into the Woods’ Receives a Record Nine League of Cincinnati Theatres Awards

CCM presents INTO THE WOODS, Feb. 23 - March 4, 2012. Photography by Mark Lyons.

CCM presents INTO THE WOODS, Feb. 23 - March 4, 2012. Photography by Mark Lyons.

CCM’s production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods has earned nine awards from the League of Cincinnati Theatres (LCT)! The fairytale adventure turns traditional stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk and others upside down, examining the “after” in these happily-ever-after tales.

LCT panelists praised nearly every aspect of the production, which was described as “fitting CCM like the golden slipper on Cinderella’s foot.” Awards were given in the following categories:

CCM News

CCM Slideshows: Into the Woods

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The reviews are in and CityBeat‘s Rick Pender calls Into the Woods a “remarkably mature and thoroughly entertaining production,” while the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s Jackie Demaline writes: “Delights include first-rate work from graduating seniors and a show of great promise from freshmen in the wonderful storybook world created by the design team.”

Find out for yourself what happens after “happily ever after” when CCM presents Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning Into the Woods, running this Thursday through Sunday, March 4, 2012 in CCM’s Patricia Corbett Theater.

CCM News CCM Slideshows

Discussing ‘Into the Woods’ Wigs and Make-Up with Student Designer Kaitlyn Adams

Kaitlyn Adams with INTO THE WOODS' Witch, played by Victoria Cook.

Kaitlyn Adams with INTO THE WOODS' Witch, played by Victoria Cook.

Into the Woods Wig & Make-Up Designer Kaitlyn Adams recently sat down with CCM Public Information Assistant and Arts Administration student Jenifer Thomas to discuss the work that went into this monumental production. Kaitlyn is handling wig and make-up design for this production alongside CCM faculty member Kelly Yurko.

Jenifer Thomas: Hi Kaitie! Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Kaitlyn Adams: I’m a Senior from Cincinnati. I went to high school at Seton on the West side.

JT: Local girl, huh? So what got you into wigs and make-up?

KA: My mom is actually a wig master and make-up artist, so I’ve grown up with it.

JT: And why’d you choose CCM?

KA: There are only two schools in the country that teach wigs and make-up. The other school focuses primarily on wigs and make-up for film, and that wasn’t where I was interested. I want to do stage work.

JT: So when you found out you were assigned to design Into the Woods, what did you do?

CCM News Student Salutes

CCM Musical Theatre Celebrates Distinguished Chair with Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods’

Chris Blem, Victoria Cook and Michelle Rombola in CCM's Mainstage Production of 'Into the Woods.' Photography by Mark Lyons.

Chris Blem, Victoria Cook and Michelle Rombola in CCM's Mainstage Production of 'Into the Woods.' Photography by Mark Lyons.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Patricia A. Corbett Distinguished Chair of Musical Theatre, CCM’s Mainstage Musical Theatre Series continues its 2011-2012 season with Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. The award-winning pairing of new and existing fairy-tales with Sondheim’s witty music and lyrics runs February 23-26 and March 1-4 in Patricia Corbett Theater in CCM Village.

CCM News