Your Guide to Creating a Whimsical Look for Fractured Fairy Tales

PBT’s Fractured Fairy Tales Mood Board

Creating the perfect look for an occasion – whether it’s onstage at a ballet or for a party – is a crucial part of any event.  Below are some tips on how to create a fairytale look, a take on the Ballet Core style that is popular today.  This look is very elegant and traditional, with a bit of whimsy.  

Kristin McLain, Costume Director at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, shared some ideas for how to translate the elements of fairytale ballet costumes into your own look for special occasions.  According to McLain, “whether you go full costume or just sprinkle in a few elements, it’s easy to give any outfit a fairytale touch.”

  1. Incorporate historical elements into your outfit.  In dresses, this could be corseted or more structured bodices, full skirts or adding a petticoat to make a skirt fuller.  Also, look for dresses with trains or bustles, and add ruffles around the bust or cuffs.  For a suit or other menswear, a blousy fabric will give an immediate historical look, as well as a higher collar, ruffles, and fuller sleeves.  Additionally, jackets and vests that fit close to the body will have a formal, regal look.  And for any piece, the more trim and appliques the better.
  2. Accessories!  Costume jewelry, especially with jewels, will add a nice touch.  Stacked necklaces, dangly earrings and even hair accessories will make a strong statement.  Menswear should stay away from ties and try a ruffled scarf knotted at the neck.  Gloves, capes or capelets and hats also work if you really want to go all out.
  3. True historical footwear is going to be character shoes or boots.  Anything close-toed will give more of a fairy tale impression.  A jewel or brooch on the tops of the shoes can be a nice touch.  Patterned tights can also be fun.
  4. Hair can be simple or elaborate, depending on your look.  Braids either loose or in an updo are a staple for a more girlish or everyday look–try braiding a ribbon through.  For formal hairstyles, updos and curls all over, as well as barrettes, tiaras, or jewels. Men’s hair would be combed away from the face, and facial hair or sideburns could be accentuated or drawn on with makeup.

    Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty

    This costume is from PBT’s production of The Sleeping Beauty in 2023.  It is a classical tutu and bodice made from white brocade and embellished with silver applique, beading, and jewels.  And of course, every princess needs her jewelry and crown!

    Artist: Joanna Schmidt; Photographer: Duane Rieder

    Belle in Beauty and the Beast

    Here is Beauty from PBT’s production of Beauty and the Beast, last performed in 2020.  This is a romantic tutu that includes layers of tulle under the purple skirt.  These details are a combination of fabric embellishment with hand-painted gold highlights.  Of course, she’s wearing her tiara, and the arm puffs–while not strictly historical–are a common accessory in many ballets.

    Artist: Marisa Grywalski; Photographer: Duane Rieder

    Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty

    This is the costume for Carabosse from PBT’s 2018 production of The Sleeping Beauty.  Carabosse is also known as Maleficent in books and movies.    The costume is a severe, yet elegant, black gown with a scoop neckline and plenty of sparkle and jewels.  A wicked, spiky crown completes the ensemble.

    Artist: Eun Yung Ahn : Photographer: Rich Sofranko

    The Beast as the Prince in Beauty and the Beast

    In Beauty and The Beast, we watch as a monster turns into a prince.  Here is the wedding jacket that the Prince wears after he’s transformed.  This is a vest and sleeves made of orange silk and embellished with intricate beading on the chest and around the waist.

    Artist: Alejandro Diaz; Photographer: Rich Sofranko

    Alice in Wonderland

    The costumes in Alice in Wonderland help tell the story that this is a place of madness.  The Mad Hatter has a suit jacket made of velvet, hand-sewn checkered spandex pants, a brocade vest and a silk tie–many patterns and fabrics all together!  Many of the other characters in the ballet have clashing patterns and colors.  However, Alice is always in her innocent blue dress.

    Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre; Photographer: Rich Sofranko

    Cinderella’s Ballgown from Cinderella

    Cinderella’s costume is a delicate, dusty pink brocade with a pink tulle skirt.  Everything about this dress is light, airy, and sweet.  What better dress to wear to a ball!

    Artist: Alexis Kochas; Photographer: Duane Rieder

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