On the job with… Milwaukee Ballet costume shop

Costumes for the Snowflakes in “The Nutcracker” hang from the ceiling in the costume shop. Credit: Kat Schleicher

In early December, the Milwaukee Ballet’s costume shop was bustling as it geared up for its performances of holiday classic “The Nutcracker.” The shop at the Ballet’s Walker’s Point headquarters is held down by just three full-time staff: Mary Piering, Harlan Ferstl and Lyn Kream.

The trio makes all the costumes for original performances like “Mirror Mirror,” which has 65 costumes, and maintains and repairs those for long-running annual performances like “The Nutcracker,” which has 153.

“I like them very tight and that keeps them close to their body so they’re not spinning around,” Piering said. “We have to make sure all sleeves have gussets because they spend a lot of time with their arms up in the air.”

It takes one to three weeks to make a costume, depending on how complicated it is, Piering said. A Sugar Plum, for example, takes three weeks.

“Tutus take a while. All this netting has to get gathered up and then it gets tacked down by hand,” she said.

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