Inside Look: Making Cinderella Sparkle

Cinderella’s entrance to the ball is made even more magical by a 27-foot-long, hand-painted silk cape.

Boston Ballet in Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella Photo credit: Gene Schiavone

Take a peek inside the Costume Shop as the team works their fairy godmother magic on the costumes of Cinderella.

The subtle shimmer of Cinderella’s ball tutu is achieved with layers of sparkly tulle and sequins.

Photo credit: Brooke Trisolini

David Walker’s designs incorporate playful colors and over-the-top silhouettes.

Photo credit: Brooke Trisolini

Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella transports us to an enchanted world, where a young woman overcomes hardship to find her true love’s destiny. With a magical transformation and a lost slipper at its center, the costumes play a vital role in telling this timeless tale. Go behind the scenes as the Costume Shop & Wardrobe team shares the secrets behind making this beloved fairy tale sparkle on stage.


The Cinderella costumes have a storied history. Originally created by legendary British costume designer David Walker, they premiered on stage at the Royal Ballet in London in 1987. The production was later sold to the Dutch National Ballet, where it remained for several years before being acquired by Joffrey Ballet in Chicago.

The challenge of working with an older production is that, over the years, information has been lost in translation—literally. When Boston Ballet first rented the production from the Joffrey in 2014, the inventory was logged entirely in Dutch and the original designs were missing. The Costume Shop team has worked carefully to piece together the production, but some unsolved mysteries remain. To the most astute observer, the fairy costumes in Act One, with their long, flowing tutus and empire waists, might look slightly out of place with the rest of the production. First Hand Nellie Kurz, who works closely on refurbishing and refitting the costumes, explains, “I suspect that they were a part of an earlier, 1965 production of Cinderella, also designed by David Walker, but it’s hard to know for sure.”

The costumes are crucial in bringing the exaggerated stepsister characters to life.

Boston Ballet in Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella. Photo credit: Gene Schiavone


When Cinderella makes her breathtaking entrance to the Royal Ball, she looks every bit the part of royalty in a 27-foot-long cape of hand-painted silk georgette, accented by a sculptural, wire collar. Its grandness adds to the challenging and impressive aspect of her next move. With her long train carried by five footmen, she must gracefully descend the staircase en pointe without ever looking down.

At the stroke of midnight, Cinderella is seemingly transformed back into her rags before the audience’s eyes. Contrary to the chaotic scene on stage, the principal dancer playing Cinderella is able to change offstage with plenty of time to spare during intermission. How? Kurz reveals, “Another dancer, already dressed and ready, is waiting in the wings. The principal Cinderella runs off in her ball costume while this dancer runs on stage in the rags, making it seem like she’s the same dancer. Theater magic!”


In Sir Frederick Ashton’s version of Cinderella, the high-maintenance stepsisters you love to hate are played by male dancers, adding an extra element of comedy to the ballet. David Walker’s designs incorporate playful, garish colors and over-the-top silhouettes to highlight the silliness of the sisters. “This is a case where the costumes really bring these exaggerated characters to life,” says Draper Sara Kirk, the supervisor who fits the stepsisters.

Soloist Roddy Doble, who is learning the role of the stepsister, explains, “I was shocked during my first costume fitting at how many layers I have to wear…and in heels! But I think being in the costume encourages how I approach the character and my movement on stage.”


With over 150 costumes and 50 hand-painted shoes (including one very special pair of jeweled pointe shoes), a production of this magnitude has many rich layers and details to discover. Look for the hand-painted embellishments and floral details that bring this romantic fairy tale to life on stage. Sir Frederick Ashton’s sumptuous choreography paired with David Walker’s sparkling designs is a royal treat for the eyes, and audiences of all ages will delight in the grandest Cinderella of them all.