We watch the Oscars to see who is wearing what, and that’s also pretty much why we watch ABC’s Dancing With the Stars.
Sure, some enjoy watching couples waltz. And let’s not discount snide malevolence as some snipe about erstwhile celebrities trying to tango their way back to paparazzi-worthiness. But the real stars of Dancing With the Stars, which has its season finale Tuesday, May 25, are the costumes.
Those sequins, rhinestones and feathers don’t just happen. It takes a small army to make so little clothing go so very far.
Randall Christensen, the show’s costume designer, leads that army.
“I was a competitive ballroom and Latin dancer, dancing since ’77,” he says. “I have been costuming since ’94, and I learned on my students. I taught myself how to sew. Ignorance is bliss. I never knew silks and satins were difficult to sew. I would work from 10 in the morning to midnight. I was young and passionate, and I didn’t know any rules. I did what the fabric was telling me what to do.”
That was the perfect training to instill a work ethic that has Christensen – and a staff of 22 – create hundreds of costumes each season. Before he explains how, we must tackle the question nagging anyone who watches: How many rhinestones does the show use each season?
About 1.5 million, Christensen says.
“It is not uncommon for a woman to have 75 to 150 gross rhinestones” on a gown, he says. That’s “gross” as in 12 dozen. Multiply that by 150, and that’s almost 22,000 stones on one gown. The stones are hand-set with syringes of jewelry glue and affixed with tweezers.
Christensen and company make all competition clothes, including the men’s ties and pocket squares. They meet with dancers immediately after the results show.
He designs each costume from scratch, depending on the music, the type of dance and the dancers, and they’re fitted while the celebrities strike dance poses.
Christensen buys fabric at International Silks & Woolens, Mood Designer Fabrics and Michael Levine Inc. Whatever he gets must be stretchy.
For the results show, Christensen alters clothes he buys from Nordstrom, Forever 21, H&M and Anthropologie.
For those who wonder why there have been no wardrobe malfunctions, thank Christensen.
“Every woman has to wear breast petals, so the breasts are covered with those nude stickie things,” he says. “In 20 years everything that could happened and popped out and went loose.”
So he takes precautions. The dancers don’t use the double-sided tape because between bronzing products and perspiration, the adhesive would give.
One aspect Christensen will not modify is glam. Is it possible to have too many rhinestones or feathers?
“Heck, no,” he says, laughing. “Never, never, never!”