Every costume at the Miami City Ballet has its own story

The Miami City Ballet is heading back to Lincoln Road. Well, at least the costumes are.

From October through January, the ballet will be showcasing 30 costumes at a storefront at 530 Lincoln Road.

“The ballet used to be on Lincoln Road and we wanted to bring back that element of art and culture … I remember being a teenager and walking past it. It was an all glass front, so you could see the ballerinas moving and dancing,” said Ivannia Van Arman, the executive director of the Lincoln Road Business Improvement District.

“It’s a big deal for the city to have its own ballet and we wanted to celebrate that.”

Founded in 1985, the Miami City Ballet is celebrating its 31st season this year.

When the ballet’s costumes aren’t in use, they’re stored in the Miami City Ballet building along 22nd street and Liberty avenue in Miami Beach where almost 4,000 costumes are hanging on racks organized by color and size.

The costumes can take anywhere from as little as half a day to six months to create. It all depends on the complexity of the costumes. The first step is to sketch it out on paper. The costume designer then takes that pattern off of the page and onto the stage by fitting the costume to the dancer’s body using muslin, which is a lightweight, thin cotton cloth.

“[The muslin] is inexpensive so you can use it, cut it, and if you make a mistake it’s not a problem,” Terry Schechter, director of community outreach and special projects said.

Then once the fit is established, costume designers decide what fabric to use — costumes can be made from various materials like muslin, silk, a netting called tulle, a mesh-like gauze, nylon, or elastic.

The female ballet costume is divided into two basic parts: a bodice, the top piece, and the tutu skirt.

“The two parts are attached with a piece of elastic so that when the dancer is moving the top doesn’t rise up as the ballerina’s hands go up,” Schechter said.

Dancers also wear tights, ballet shoes, and depending on the ballet, a custom headpiece as well.

Each costume is custom-made for an individual dancer.

“Their names are written on the inside of the costume, they’re either sewn inside on a label or handwritten in the inside of the bodice,” Schechter explained. “Future ballerinas want to know whose costume they are wearing because they have certain idols.”

The original bodice is fitted with hooks and bars at the back so the costume can be adjusted for future ballerinas.

Some costumes like those from designer Michele Oka Doner’s aquatic-themed A Midsummer Night’s Dream have exquisite hand-sewn embellishments and others like those from Barabara Karinska’s Tarantella are much simpler.

Currently, pieces from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tarantella, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, and Fanfare, among others are on display.

The costumes will be rotated out and replaced sometime next month. The whole display will be up until late January.