This summer when Belle and the Beast perform their picturesque dance to “Tale As Old As Time,” not only will audiences be captivated by the grace of the actors and the beauty of the music — they’ll be ogling the dress. One of the most iconic elements of this costume-heavy production, Belle’s signature yellow ball gown, deserves a spotlight all its own. From the creative design to the meticulous execution of every detail, you’ll be amazed at what it takes to move from concept to complete for just one of the many costumes taking the stage this summer at Tuacahn.
“It will be fabulous…all worth it when the lights shine on it.”
Just days before the opening of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Tuacahn, Belle’s ball gown is ready to shine.
That’s not just an expression. It really will be twinkling beneath the stage lights thanks to roughly $500 worth of Swarovski rhinestones that have been hand glued all over the dress.
It’s tedious work to be sure — each gem is picked up individually with a pair of tweezers, dipped in glue and then placed on the fabric — but for Maria Lenn, costume shop manager, and Faith Brown, costume shop foreman — it’s all part of the job.
“It will be fabulous,” Lenn says, dismissing the emphasis on the painstaking nature of the task. “It’s all worth it when the lights shine on it.”
As you can imagine, hand-glued rhinestones are just a tiny part of the overall process to create a dress with a boned bodice, hand-stitched and machine-stitched trim, and yards and yards of fabric.
“We have at least six people who have worked on this dress in a significant way,” Lenn says. “That doesn’t even include the designer, Ryan Moller, who handled the design, fittings and fabric shopping.”
The process inside the costume shop begins when the draper takes the sketch of the costume and creates a pattern for the dress. The pattern is then passed to the person known as the “first hand” that cuts out the fabric and passes it off to the stitcher with instructions on how it should be sewn.
“It takes a whole army,” Lenn says.
“It’s really rewarding to see everything come together,” Brown says.
Since Beauty and the Beast is a show Tuacahn has produced in the past, some might wonder if there are pieces of the previous show that will make an appearance this year as well. But the answer from the costume department is a cheerful but firm, “No.”
“It wouldn’t be very fun to just pull the old package and shake it out,” Lenn says.
Plus, it wouldn’t sit well with Tuacahn’s reputation for uniqueness in each show. Lenn explains that in order to facilitate that fresh approach, they work with completely different teams of people during the design process, even for a repeated show.
“The only thing similar will be the actual songs and the actors’ lines,” Lenn says. “Everything else is completely different.”
So those 25 yards of fabric used to create five different layers of Belle’s yellow dress? All new.
The hundreds of yards of trim? Yep, new.
The more than 150 hours of work to make this masterpiece? You guessed it. New.
Oh, and the actress wearing this dress? Yes, she’s new to the role too.
Crystal Kellogg, who plays the role of Belle, says costuming is one of her favorite parts as an actress.
“It seems to make you sink into the role a bit more,” Kellogg says. “It changes your character a little bit.”
Especially when the costumes have the kind of attention to detail that Tuacahn’s costume shop yields.
Details like a subtle rose motif included in each of Belle’s costumes — a nod to the magic rose that serves as an important part of the story. And a 1700s French style that pays homage to the overall timeline of the show.
In a 2,000-seat theater, one might wonder if all those details are necessary, but Kellogg says you would definitely notice if they were missing.
“Ryan Moller, the costume designer, told me that on an 80-foot stage like Tuacahn’s it is important that the costumes have a lot of texture, otherwise they’ll just look like big globs on stage,” Kellogg says. “So Belle’s ball gown is going to be that classic Belle look, but with more texture.”
“We don’t do anything subtle at Tuacahn,” Lenn says.
And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s one of the most satisfying feelings ever,” Lenn says. “I’ve done shows that I’ve worked on so hard and it seems impossible to get to that finish line, but when we actually get there… I’ve sat in the audience and wept.”
Brown nods enthusiastically and adds, “When you see it up there on stage and you’re excited, you’re celebrating the work everyone has done. It’s a group celebration.”
Don’t miss the chance to see Belle’s dress — and all the other amazing costumes in this year’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. For ticket details check out www.tuacahn.org