Behind the Scenes at the Cincinnati Ballet’s Costume Shop


This underground studio has been the domain of Wardrobe Mistress Diana Vandergriff-Adams since the Cincinnati Ballet moved into a former brewery in the late 1990s (and she’s been sewing costumes for the likes of the Ballet and the Cincinnati Opera since the early 1970s).

We paid a visit to Vandergriff-Adams and her team (which is actually just comprised of one other staffer, Wardrobe Assistant Laura Hoffman, who also happens to be Vandergriff-Adams’s daughter). They fitted some dancers to costumes for their October 2015 show, Lady of the Camellias, and showed us around their workspace.

Take a look at their tiny tutu kingdom:

The ballet's costume storage space, housed in a former brewery barrel cellar
The ballet’s costume storage space, housed in a former brewery barrel cellar. The lack of natural light might make the place feel like a bunker, but it’s perfect for preserving textiles and squirreling away delicate costumes.

Photograph by Evan Sgouris

A rack of costumes for Lady of the Camellias
A rack of costumes for Lady of the Camellias, on loan from the Boston Ballet
The original Pinterest board
Tutu storage
Tutu storage

Photographs by Evan Sgouris

Wardrobe assistant Laura Hoffman fits a costume to soloist Maizyalet Velázquez
Wardrobe assistant Laura Hoffman fits a costume to Soloist Maizyalet Velázquez

Photograph by Evan Sgouris

Velázquez models the nightgown costume from Lady of the Camellias
Photographs by Evan Sgouris
Vandergriff-Adams adjusts Velázquez’s hem

Vandergriff-Adams is committed to costume quality—and dancer safety. “We never use glue for gems,” she says. “They can come off and if a dancer slips on one, that can be the end of a career.” To make sure all costumes materials are safe and secure, she and her staff spend hundreds of hours hand-sewing them.

Vandergriff-Adams holds up one of her favorite costumes, the “Diamond” from Jewels, a three-act ballet created by famed choreographer George Balanchine.
A mountain of fabric samples fills out a corner
Principal Dancer Cervilio Miguel Amador gets fitted for Lady of the Camellias. Male dancers have unique needs for their costumes. Diana Vandergriff-Adams sews gussets into pants to allow maximum movement—which is necessary because male dancers have been known to bust open pant seams on stage.
Tutus and sewing machines fill every open space


Soloist Maizyalet Velázquez checks her costume (and turnout) and gives an impromptu performance.


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