William Ivey Long’s Designs on Broadway

William Ivey Long’s costume designs are a killer.

William Ivey Long’s costume designs are a killer. [Photo by Paul Kolnick; newcitystage.com]

The ultra-sexy revamped sheer black palette of the Chicago revival. The yellow dress in Contact. The frogs in Frogs. Sally Bowles’ maximum-leg-power mini-dress in Cabaret. The feather-trimmed muu-muu in Hairspray.

Long’s hand-drawn sketch along with the real-life costume shows the evolution from imagination to reality.

Long’s hand-drawn sketch along with the real-life costume shows the evolution from imagination to reality. [(c) Richard Kornberg and Associates and William Ivey Long]

And here, at The Straz, the mind-blowing, magical wardrobe changes in Rodgers+Hammerstien’s Cinderella.

Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella.

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. [http://www.williamiveylong.com]

Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella.

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. [http://www.williamiveylong.com]

There is one mastermind behind these historic works of theater couture, and that man is the diminutive, Southern-spoken genius Broadway loves named William Ivey Long. As *the* costume designer of the Broadway set, Long’s name brand is sewn into over 70 shows and counting. His designs—spectacular, fabulous works created after intensive, obsessive research—have been known to become as famous as the actors who wore them and, in some cases, lasted as works of art far longer than the show itself.

This bodysuit, designed for Anita Morris in “A Call from the Vatican” for Tommy Tune’s original production of NINE is allegedly the sexiest costume in Broadway history.

This bodysuit, designed for Anita Morris in “A Call from the Vatican” for Tommy Tune’s original production of NINE is allegedly the sexiest costume in Broadway history. [http://imgarcade.com]

One of the most illustrative tales of Long’s creative design genius came from the set of The Producers, where he had created meticulously detailed pearl leotards for the chorus of Pearl Babes. During their number, they sit on a piano, and, as it turned out, sitting on pearls on a piano is terribly uncomfortable. Can you fix this? they asked Long.

Pearl Babes from The Producers.

Pearl Babes from The Producers.

Long thought about it, and he turned that difficulty over in his mind. He did not want to sacrifice his precious pearls shimmying in the back, and he didn’t want any other effect. So, he gathered up the costumes and took them home for a few days. Then he returned, handed each actor her costume and said the problem is solved.

The Pearl Babes put on their costumes and sat down, and, certainly, the pearls gave way beneath them. Long had replaced the hard plastic pearls with fake grapes, the kind found in most Grannys’ bowls of fake plastic fruit, and painted them an opalescent white. Problem solved.

And the audience never knew the difference.

Long’s designs for Dreamgirls exemplify his unique style that blends theatricality and haute couture.

Long’s designs for Dreamgirls exemplify his unique style that blends theatricality and haute couture.

For more on William Ivey Long:

William Ivey Long Keeps His Clothes On By Alex Witchel

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/29/magazine/29long.html?pagewanted=all

“William Ivey Long, Costume Designer, Rodgers+Hammerstein’s Cinderella

William Ivey Long at TEDx Lizard Creek: “The Design Process”

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