Designing Dance – At the Costume Store

by Jenny Butler
Friday 29th October 2010

Thank you to Kate Scott from The Australian Ballet for pulling together this week’s excellent Designing Dance guest blog!! DON’T FORGET to leave a comment on any of this week’s guest blog posts to be in the running to win a double pass to Madame Butterfly AND a Chip Chop ‘Pavlova’ tote! – Jenny x

Ruby Red Tutus. The tutus are stored upside down to keep the skirts buoyant! Photo by Jess Bialek

If fashion is the last repository of the marvellous, as Christian Dior once declared, costume archives might just be the last repository of the sublime.

For almost 50 years The Australian Ballet has been creating costumes and, like dancers, they need somewhere to rest between shows. That somewhere, since the 80s, has been a hundred-year-old wool store in Kensington, a space that exudes an almost magical air and exerts a magnetic pull over its visitors.

Storage crates, bags, boxes and wicker chests full of costumes. Photos by Kate Scott and Jess Bialek

Giant tutus!! Photos by Jess Bialek

Productions are stored with library precision by the store’s redoubtable Barbara Langley, but everywhere there’s something unexpected to surprise and delight. A handpainted ballet plate in the apple-green kitchen; bright yellow character shoes waiting to dance off a shelf; a simple shrine to ballet great Margot Fonteyn; a leather codpiece lying suggestively on a table; a storey-tall white tutu billowing from the rafters.

Photo by Jess Bialek

Clockwise from top left: Fonteyn Shrine, Kate’s favourite yellow shoes and ballet plate in the wonderfully old-school kitchen. Photos by Kate Scott and Jess Bialek

It’s a place we’ve returned to time and time again for photo shoots, despite the store’s charming and not-so-charming impracticalities (no lifts to move costumes between floors; no heating in the winter). On the recent Madame Butterfly and Merry Widow shoots, the dancers had to be bundled into coats, scarves and slippers between takes as frost formed on the portable furnace, but no photography studio can match its ambience.

So cold that the gas bottle froze! Photo by Kitty Walker

Photos by Kitty Walker

It’s a place that makes adults exclaim with childlike delight; a dress-up box of epic proportions where the trinkets are designed by some of theatre’s greats. The very quotable Mr. Dior keenly observed “the designer is the last possessor of the wand of Cinderella’s fairy godmother”. Perhaps that’s what makes this humble store a castle.

Kate Scott

PS. For more photos of the store do visit The Australian Ballet Blog, Behind Ballet

Photo by Jess Bialek

by Jenny Butler
Friday 29th October 2010


  • cleamoureuse 6 years ago

    ooo Waooow I would love to go ::*** so Magical***::

  • natalie 6 years ago

    what a great giveaway.

  • Jessica 6 years ago

    I’d prolong my Australian visit for this =)

    This has been my favourite guest blog yet.

    Tack så mycket!

  • Beth 6 years ago

    Omg I love those little green/yellow shoes! want!

    fingers crossed for the amazing giveaway…

  • Elizabeth 6 years ago

    No wonder little girls all want to be ballerinas – so beautiful!!

  • Amanda 6 years ago

    Oh wow. Those red tutus! My niece would love this giveaway-count me in…

  • Andy 6 years ago

    great giveaway.

  • tiffany 6 years ago

    Haven’t been to the ballet for ages. Would love to go!!

  • Sian 6 years ago

    upside down tutus just as beautiful :)

  • Jennifer French 6 years ago

    Oh how wonderful. What a fabulous dress-up box.

  • Sam 6 years ago

    Pretty pretty pretty. Another great giveaway!

  • jodie 6 years ago

    oh, that takes me back to that childhood dream most little girls had….what a magical place. xx

  • stefi 6 years ago

    really beautiful, and the giveaway is just brilliant!

  • Georgina 6 years ago

    Just beautiful! Wish I was a dancer!

  • Erin 6 years ago

    This giveaway is so very exciting! I have always wanted to go to the ballet, and having just finished reading Mao’s last dancer I now have ballet on the brain! Please, please please pick me!! (The Melbourne season runs over my birthday next year – tix to Madame Butterfly would make my day!)

  • Pippa 6 years ago

    sooooo lovely :)

  • Liz 6 years ago

    Amazing. How wonderful to wear those beautiful costumes! Oh I’d love a tutu!

  • Mrs Nest 6 years ago

    What great photos capturing the richness and detail, yet the calm behind the flurry of a performance! The giveaway would give me a chance to watch my first ballet in Aus!

  • Laura 6 years ago

    I would LOVE to go!
    The costumes are breathtaking
    and I have never seen the ballet live before!

  • redshoes 6 years ago


  • Sally 6 years ago

    Wow, Its like another world- we forget that this exists in Australia too!

  • Jenny 6 years ago

    What an exciting giveaway! The ballet is an entirely magical, exciting and beautiful. *Dreaming of* Madame Butterfly…

  • leah 6 years ago

    love the red tu-tus.
    i wanted to be a ballerina.
    such a divine giveaway x

  • Scott 6 years ago

    Terrific work…! This inspiring look at the creative world of the theatre should warm the hearts of those who enjoy productions in any form.

  • Lala 6 years ago

    Loving ‘Kate’s favorite yellow shoes’, great stuff and a spectacular giveaway!

  • Lizzie 6 years ago

    what a wonderful beautiful world….

  • Cathg1g2 6 years ago

    The colours are exquisite!
    It would be lovely to be transported with Madame Butterfly.

  • Nellie 6 years ago

    amazing amazing amazing! x

  • G 6 years ago

    adore the kimonos and rich colours

  • kay wooff 6 years ago

    I would be the most favourite aunty in the world if I won this great give away

  • erin Davidson 6 years ago

    oooh how wonderful!! The colour, the emotion, the music… Amazing! I have never been to the Ballet before, and would love to be apart of the experience in Adelaide.

  • Carly Wallman 6 years ago

    This made me feel 6 years old again, buying my first pair of ballet shoes. Thank you for the memories!

  • Michael 6 years ago

    This is another great giveaway! Thank you.

  • Olivia Duggan 6 years ago

    Dreams can come true! The ballet, the shoes, the costumes…and a night away. Thankyou!!!

  • ix 6 years ago

    Makes me want to be a ballerina !

  • Samantha 6 years ago

    A chance for a day of fantasy and memories of my grandmother taking me to the ballet, yes please!

  • Emily Treganowan 6 years ago

    love these photos. Pick me please!!

  • Ophelia 6 years ago

    These behind the scenes images look so beautiful.
    Always had a soft spot of a beautiful tutu.

  • KP 6 years ago

    This has inspired me to pull-out my old sapphire blue tutu from under the bed, dust it off and hang it from the ceiling!

  • alex sunday 6 years ago

    these photos are just so beautiful….

  • Naomi 6 years ago

    Makes me want to be a ballerina, costume designer and set designer all at the same time! gorgeous!

  • Saf 6 years ago

    Those layered skirts are beautiful! I would love to go to the Ballet, I am sure I would get that twitch in my leg in the first couple of seconds, indicating that I should be up there with them.

  • Rebecca 6 years ago

    Looking at all the tutus just reminds me of how much I wanted to be a ballerina as a child… So beautiful, so elegant!! Oh, how I love the ballet!!

  • Lucyb 6 years ago

    Gorgeous photos thank you

  • Arora and Me 6 years ago

    Me and my 6 year old fairy princess would be in dress-up heaven in this dream world!!!

  • Kate Parsonson 6 years ago

    What a fabulous prize – the only ballet i’ve ever been to was in Budapest, and it was such a magical night. I’d absolutely love to go along, the costume photos took my breath away. I love fabric with a passion, and the amount of work and beautiful detail that goes into making these is inspiring!

  • Nicki 6 years ago

    tu tu pretty! x

  • Bec 6 years ago

    I’ve just been to see the Australian Ballet perform The Nutcracker here in Tokyo! It was magical … not sure if the Japanese totally got all the Aussie humour that was added! x

  • Debbie 6 years ago

    Stunning, oh how I would love to spend a day behind trawling those aisles. makes my heart dance!

  • Janette 6 years ago

    One of the best Operas, cant wait to see it as a ballet. I’m sure it will be just as wonderful. Would love my two daughters to experience it.

  • Eric 6 years ago

    Wow, a nice giveaway for anyone who appreciates ballet, and a good gift for a friend who likes ballet, but has never attended a live performance

  • Kerry Smith 6 years ago

    How heavenly to see behind the scenes of the ballet and something of the creative industry behind the scenes

  • Mel 6 years ago

    Great behind the scenes photos… love it!

  • John B 6 years ago

    Love it. Thanks.

  • Donna Quirke 6 years ago

    Wow what stunning photography of such beautiful costumes, it must be a magical place to work

  • Mary Hackett 6 years ago

    I have promised myself a tutu for years and haven’t got one yet. I am 48 and I think I feel a midlife crises coming on! The tutu images are beautiful.

  • Nicole 6 years ago

    I WANT A GIANT TUTU!!! brilliant guest blog xx

  • Marie Biswell 6 years ago

    So there is such a thing as TuTu Heaven! Awesome!!!!

  • Olivia 6 years ago

    i so so hope i win!
    really GREAT give-away
    thank you!

  • Camila 6 years ago

    I’d love to see Madame B in Melbourne! Those tutus are fabulous.

  • clairsy 6 years ago

    My inner 6-year-old is mesmerized by those tutus.

  • It’s all so beautiful! I love that blue to pink tutu, that would look amazing when it’s danced in!

  • Kylie Butler 6 years ago

    My little 4yo got an ‘excellent’ in her very first ballet exam this year, what a way to celebrate with her. She’s a realy prima ballerina, and we both love ballet and these photos.

  • lexi 6 years ago

    I think this would be the answer to a lot of girls/women/ladies dreams. And maybe a some guys too. Beautiful imagery.

  • Susie 6 years ago

    Fairytale heaven!! I wanna go on a tour of the place! I HEART the ballet plates! Simply gorgeous

  • Alisa 6 years ago

    I’m in love with these images! Thankyou so much for offering me a chance to win! xxx

  • Brendan Hardy 6 years ago

    OH so dreamy!!! i want to have that collection of costumes… and a troop of ballet dancers to play with… LOL… how wonderful. thankyou for the insight… thanks for the ballet!!!

  • jenn 6 years ago

    OOooohh! love the costumes! love ballet!! love the photos!

  • Amelia 6 years ago

    I was just at “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” in Toronto last week — a fabulous collaboration of Australian performers and designers! After seeing beautiful National Ballet of Canada performances for years, I would absolutely love to see the Australian Ballet. Conveniently I just flew into Sydney and plan to be in the country for at least a few months…

  • Clare 6 years ago

    Oh wow. I would love to go fossicking through the archives!

  • Jessica Tremp 6 years ago

    oh my gosh, I love the ballet
    And Degas would have had a field day with those stunning colours and materials of the Tutus. So would I actually. A nice big piece of bliss.

  • bronwyn 6 years ago

    How sublime!

  • Natalie 6 years ago

    Those Madame Butterfly sets are magical – would love to see the production!

  • Masha 6 years ago

    Incredible photos!

  • Madeline 6 years ago

    Beautiful, costumes, beautiful photography. The giant tutus are to die for.

  • Kate 6 years ago

    Gorgeous photos! It’s like walking into a divine grown-up fairytale.

  • kirsty higgins 6 years ago

    thankyou so very much for the amazing glimpse into the world of the Australian Ballet. I have thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it, especially the costume warehouse and the dye room. Oh how i would love to be locked in the warehouse for a weekend, week or perhaps a year. Bliss. thankyou also for the giveaway opportunity.


  • Jane of Australia 6 years ago

    s i g h … the little girl in me has awakened.
    How beautiful and evocative is this post.
    Now I take my grand daughters to ballet class…
    I sit behind a glass door and watch, though I am older now, my heart delights and

  • Jane 6 years ago

    How absolutely divine. I am enchanted. J x

  • lindsey clare 6 years ago

    love love love The Australian Ballet. and loved this post too!

  • Kirsty 6 years ago

    The Ruby Red Tutu’s! Oh. My. Goodness.


  • vera b 6 years ago

    theatre photography is just beautiful.
    and ballet is simply sublime.

  • Laura 6 years ago

    Oh! that looks like heaven.

  • Kieran 6 years ago

    thats absolutely amazing

  • Catherine H 6 years ago

    My 8 yr old ballerina has been capivated by this week’s blog!!! It has served to cement her passion for dance……

  • Suzie 6 years ago

    OMG wow! Those giant tu-tus are incredible!

  • thisrefugeeslife 6 years ago

    I love that image of the lady with the feathers standing on the middle of the stage. Just beautiful.

  • kathryn hall 6 years ago

    oh, I do so want to be a ballerina when I grow up.

  • Chitra Mangma 6 years ago

    Wonderful!!!!!!! such a dream~

  • Shelley Panton 6 years ago

    Stunning behind the scene’s shots, thanks for sharing.

  • fairchildstreet 6 years ago

    In my next life I will be a ballerina. Charmaine

  • KATE 6 years ago

    Gorgeous! I would love to take my sis for her b’day.

  • janelle 6 years ago

    I love the ballerina plates in the kitchen, so cute!

  • claire 6 years ago

    Loved the behind the scenes costume shots. How magical that place must be.

    Fingers crossed!

  • Chitra Mangma 6 years ago

    I just want to say that I didn’t comment for the ticket .please don’t pick me. I just like to express my feeling toward this post which I did post this link on my facebook fan page via: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Chitras-Closet/10143912927?ref=ts.
    Thank you so much for brightening my day. I am a huge fan of your blog. The Australian Ballet post was inspired me to keep going through my next summer11 collection. Great short..marvelous!! Thanks again..Chitra~

  • Juliet 6 years ago

    this is the best giveaway YET!

  • Hila 6 years ago

    There is seriously nothing more uplifting than looking at photos of tutus and costumes. Reminds me of dress ups as a little girl.

  • Yani @ kaleidoscaping.blogspot.com 6 years ago

    AMAZING! Thank you for taking us behind the scenes. Awesome giveaway too!

  • Ellie 6 years ago

    Tulle is simply stunning!
    Those colours are so vivid and gorgeous as well- so beautiful!

  • Jane 6 years ago

    Gorgeous pictures. How fun it must be to trip around in that amazing store house. Wonderful guest blog.

  • Sally 6 years ago

    Such a wonderful, magical place. Love the ruby red tutus. The yellow shoes are pretty cute too!

  • tee 6 years ago

    the photos are gorgeous!!

  • Cristina 6 years ago

    Looks like a truly magical place. Anyone would feel like an imaginative kid again if they were surrounded by ruby red tutus and costumes!

  • mahani 6 years ago

    i want to work here!

  • Liz Kennedy 6 years ago

    Those Ruby Red tutus are truly extraordinary.
    And what a very generous giveaway.

  • Tania 6 years ago

    What a magical space that warehouse is. I used to ride passed the warehouse on the train and wonder what it was like inside. So many colours! So many textures! The photo’s are so beautiful.

  • Georgia Mason 6 years ago

    I’ve seen the opera, but would love to see the ballet!

  • Emily 6 years ago

    The red tutus! Amazement.

  • Natalie Baczynski 6 years ago

    Thank you for this little sneak peek into the costume store…it’s so wonderful to see the costumes being stored so lovingly and reused and, I hope one day, in a gallery or museum where they can be enjoyed by generations to come, like the NGA’s wonderful collection of Ballets Russes costumes! Well done!

  • kay smith 6 years ago

    It wuld be fantastic to be able to see over the costumes. My granddaughters would love it. Do you ever have tours?

  • Sarah 6 years ago

    What absolutely lovely imagery! Yes please to seeing it in real life!

  • Cat 6 years ago

    Oh the colours! The textures! The beautiful fabrics! Gorgeousness!
    And looking to the next post… BUTTONS… oh my!!!!

  • Zjarie Butterworth 6 years ago

    This is amazing! I LOVE costumes and this makes me drool! After seeing the recent ‘Coppelia’ i have been obsessed with wanting to make a classical tutu! Hopefully they teach that in NIDA (hopefully I get in) so I can soon be working in amazing costume houses like this! Still droooling
    Hehe I would find it very hard to resist trying on all the costumes :P

  • Meaghan 6 years ago

    Lovely! I love the textures and the photos are very well shot!

  • Zette Spaghetti 6 years ago

    So I’m a bit miffed I’ve yet to get any emails regarding winning all of these amazing giveaways. Poor form, Design Files! I will forgive you if you give me tickets to Madame Butterfly and this tote though!

  • Claire 6 years ago

    I love tu-tu’s so much!

  • astrid 6 years ago

    These photos have inspired me to pull out my old pointe shoes and dance around the house… While no one is looking of course, thanks for the beautiful photos.

  • Lauren 6 years ago

    Those photos are stunning! It reminds me of looking through old photos of my mother, who was also a beautiful dancer :)

  • Shirley 6 years ago

    I’ve often wondered what the costume storage area was like.It seemed much roomier than I expected. I’d really like to visit one day. Do you ever need volunteer labour? I’m a keen sewer…and I love costumes.

  • Andrea 6 years ago

    I feel all young and pretty again – such is the message and elegance of ballet…..dreamy x

  • Alex Skinner 6 years ago

    It would be awesome to wander through the stores and try the costumes on; every dancers dream … to wear a tutu and just twirl whether there was music or not

  • Sally 6 years ago

    Yes, any need for volunteers? What a magical place.

  • Julie 6 years ago

    It is so wonderful that we can have access to this sort of behind the scenes info no matter where we are in Australia! This is so interesting for myself and my daughters and makes going to the ballet even more special.

  • Galenya Krajewski 6 years ago

    “To dance is to live,
    To live is to dance.”

    Wooooow – these photos make the spirit soar.

  • Yvette 6 years ago

    Oh that would be wonderful! Thanks for the giveaway!!

  • Shery 6 years ago

    Would love to go! Would be amazing!

  • bj 6 years ago

    It is wonderful to have these “craftsmen” get their recognition for their superb work.
    The beautiful costuming always stays with you after a performance.

  • Hannah 6 years ago

    simply sublime

  • Little Lady H 6 years ago

    Love the Tutu’s. So theatrical.
    Watching the ballet is like being in a beautiful dream, it’s magical…

  • Whitney 6 years ago

    Just looking at the costumes transports me to another land full of beautiful dresses and graceful steps. Oh to be a prima ballerina… It’s amazing how beautiful those tutu’s can make you feel. Can’t wait for Madame Butterfly!

  • rachel Kara 6 years ago

    What a wonderful week of posts. I have been truly fascinated by each one. Beautiful

  • kate 6 years ago

    beautiful pics, i feel so lucky to have had this sneak peak. i didnt know tutus could make me so happy. thanks you for your fabulous blog xoxo

  • Helen 6 years ago

    Wow! If this is a “blog” it’s the first one i’ve seen. How fabulous! It’s Pandora’s Box.
    Suddenly I’m remembering Kelvin Coe, … and the music! Thanks so much, would love to visit the warehouse! xx

  • Georgie 6 years ago

    Great give-away! Would love to see Madame Butterfly as I have never been to the ballet (!!!) and the tote would be super handy for uni!

  • siska 6 years ago

    beautiful costumes.. love the australian ballet

  • Sam 6 years ago

    Ohmy, those photos are just adorable.
    What a wonderful post!

    Please enter me to this contest, I’d love to have the Pavlova bag.
    I can’t really afford a ticket to the other side of the world since I’m from Holland…
    So the bag would be wonderful!

  • nina ballerina 6 years ago

    Please, pretty please can i work there.
    Collections to be cherished.

  • Desie 6 years ago

    Oh how I always wanted to be a ballerina ! More so than a princess! Thank you so much for a sneaky peak into their magical world…oh how I would love to go…tutus crossed…

  • Marie-Ange 6 years ago

    I’ve really enjoyed this guest blog, thanks Kate Scott and thanks Design Files!!!!

  • Amanda 6 years ago

    Gorgeous! I’d love a couple of tickets for the Adelaide show!

  • Margie 6 years ago

    romance, fantasy, drama, violence, extreme sports… ballet has it all. I loved the insider info, and the look at the costume warehouse was sublime. xo

  • Sally 6 years ago

    Tutus, what a delight!

  • Luz 6 years ago

    Pick me! Pick me! Love it!:-)

  • Kate 6 years ago


  • Ann Charles 6 years ago

    Thanks so much for your behind the scenes glimpse into the costumes of the Australian Ballet!! I am very envious! Well done! Great Blog!!

  • Nina 6 years ago

    146, my lucky number :)

  • Alison and Emily 6 years ago

    If those costumes could talk it would be amazing – the history and stories would be wonderful

  • Alli 6 years ago

    A stunning series of photos.

  • karen 6 years ago

    Absolutely fascinating. Thanks for sharing the photos etc. and this blog.

  • Madeleine 6 years ago

    Amazing guest blog! wowee!
    Please count me in for the comp and thankyou for a wonderful week of posts.

  • Nicole 6 years ago

    What I wouldn’t give to go exploring through that woolstore! Beautiful xx

  • Gito 6 years ago

    Turely amazing! What i would do if i could have a stroll around!

  • Kate Dickson-Battye 6 years ago

    My Heart SKIPPED A BEAT, when I saw the photo’s of the costume warehouse, they are so beautiful! I am fantasizing about that warehouse being my giant wardrobe full of ruby red tutu’s, yellow dancing shoes and wicker baskets. Love KATIE

  • Erin English 6 years ago

    I’ve wanted to go to the ballet for so long! Great blogging too, so interesting to see the behind the scenes pics!


  • Cheryl Griswold 6 years ago

    I’ve always loved ballet, but now that my two girls are obsessed with it I find myself seeing it all through the eyes of a child again. These costumes are all SO amazing…they really capture your imagination and make you DREAM….

  • Trish Whitfort 6 years ago

    What a magical place. I could daydream forever looking at all the memories stored there. Planning costumes and designing is an art form also.

  • lucy 6 years ago

    oh, first trip to the ballet for me and mine.
    fnigers crossed!

  • Monique Germon 6 years ago

    I am thinking that perhaps ballet is the new black ;)

    A very beautiful post, Monique x

  • Joy Cardwell 6 years ago

    Wow just love all their costumes, simply stunning, great to see these pics from behind the scenes, would love to see first hand!!!

  • claire 6 years ago

    What a wonderful job to dress Australia’s finest dancers. My Aunt made some of those costumes in the 60’s would be great to visit first hand, i have heard many stories.

  • rachael hadjialexiou 6 years ago

    Will this ever be open to public for viewing???So so so stunning-any jobs going lol

  • Nicolette Leto 6 years ago

    What beautiful images and a fantastic tour behind the scenes! Stunning Tutu’s! Thank you for the blog :)

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