Turning a costume into athletic wear

Text: Gusta Winnubst
Photography: Sacha Grootjans

Welcome to the wonderful world of the Costume department. Where the absolute best cutters turn design sketches into the most beautiful costumes that dancers can perform in perfectly. Everything is handmade, a feast for the eyes and an important part of every performance.

Isabel Blokland, Sabine Moojen

For Yolanda Klompstra, Manager of the Costume department, a new season means a rigorous schedule of new and existing works for the two NDT-companies. “For the works we’ve performed before, all the costumes are in our storage. We check those to see if they can be reused, and we make new costumes for new dancers if necessary.” To do that, the studio draws from the so-called costume bible that is well documented for each production.

It is magical to create beautiful productions with our team. Especially when everyone enjoys the process and has learned something from it.

Yolanda Klompstra

Yolanda’s heart starts beating faster each time a new production starts. “That’s when I consult with the choreographer and costume designer. I always ask a lot of questions to get a clear idea of the choreographer’s signature and the costume designer’s design. How many dancers are there, what is the atmosphere, the music, the lighting, the color of the floor.

For example, we are doing a new work by Andrew Skeels this season, in which dancers move on the floor a lot. That means the trousers should be made of sturdy, stretchy fabric and with knee pads. Once the concept is clear you start talking about fabrics, colors, details like buttons, buckles or embellishments and whether or not to paint it. Skeels likes a gray dance floor and sometimes wants us to adjust the gray color of the costumes accordingly. I also try to get a handle on the level of difficulty. For instance, one designer wanted pleats that open on the back during movements. You have to translate an idea like that, research it. That’s why we make a prototype first, in order to try everything out. When we think a costume is perfect, it is tried on by a dancer in the large fitting room. Only then we can really see if the costume works. Sometimes it disappoints, or you get the eureka moment when you come up with a solution for a special effect on the spot. Not until everyone is satisfied do we start the production of costumes. Together with my production assistant Isabel Blokland, we go shopping for fabrics and order any props like wigs, decorations, masks, gloves, etc. At the beginning of the production process, I also work a lot with our dyer Roos Mikx, to exactly determine the colors and possible effects, and to decide on dyeing techniques, designs, degradé, light effects or, for example, whether or not we wish to age the fabric.”

Yolanda Klompstra
Famous pants

“I really like new productions, the voices of the different choreographers and designers appeal to me. It’s challenging, because they all have their own characteristics that can express themselves through small details. Jiří Kylián likes pants that are straight and long. Marco Goecke likes pants in very dark, special shades. We have a lot of knowledge in pattern drawing. How to cut the pants, the architecture, where the dancer needs more space and where they need less fabric. You don’t see the outcome until the dancer wears it. Dancers tend to have a lot of muscles on the front of their legs, on the buttocks, though of course, every body is different. Women’s pants are even more difficult. We often get feedback from the choreographers about how great our pants are. It really is our specialty. This is an enormous challenge for our six studio workers, but they really deliver a creative and technical tour de force. Each dancer gets a costume that fits their body perfectly. Once the atelier workers have made all the costumes, the fitting is done to add the final touches. Do the pants work well, are the sleeves of a top not too long when you extend your arms? We discover a lot of things at that stage. Those are intense days. There is a lot of polishing. Sometimes we also want to look at it on stage, to see what the lighting does, does it fit the choreographer’s style, can the dancer perform freely? We basically turn a costume into athletic wear each time.”

Josephine Monen
Roos de Boer
The architecture of the costume

Roos de Boer, Nicky Reid, Inessa Bondarenko, Suzanne Galama, Josephine Monen, and Zosia Trebacz are NDT’s costume studio staff. You don’t become a good studio collaborator overnight. First, you have to fulfill a three-year Master Cutter training in Amsterdam. Here, the cutter learns to creatively and technically perfect a design into a costume down to the smallest detail. Yolanda Klompstra likes to get trainees from this training. Not infrequently, they stay with NDT. “That’s when the years of learning really begin. Almost nothing is more difficult than making a dance costume. Constantly reinventing everything requires a lot of flexibility, technical knowledge and out-of-the-box thinking.”

Nicky Reid
Color artist

The painting room is Roos Mikx’s domain. Here, advanced steel dyeing machines make it possible for Roos to mix dyes until a fabric has the right shade. She experiments with binding and dyeing techniques to create designs. Like a painter, she uses the airbrush paint sprayer to create shadows and effects. Roos knows exactly what stage lighting does to the costume.


Every person is unique

Painter Roos mixes until she has found the right skin-coloured fabric for a new dancer. This formula is then stored with a code and a fabric sample. That way a skin-coloured pant or top really matches the dancer’s skin tone.

Roos Mikx

We like to make costumes that are both beautiful and functional.

History on hangers

All costumes in storage are categorized per work and choreographer. This includes all props, such as masks or jewelry. NDT 1 has two in-house dressers, Karianne Hoenderkamp and Judith van Ooijen, NDT 2’s dresser is Sabine Moojen. They make sure all costumes remain in great shape, are clean and ready to wear for a performance in Amare, or on tour in the Netherlands or abroad.

Eureka moment in the fitting room

The design sketch is translated into a costume with great insight and research. In the fitting room and on a dancer’s body, a costume comes to life. This is where the finishing touches are added.

Inessa Bondarenko
Zosia Trebacz

With every premiere we really have something to celebrate; it means we succeeded at yet completing another difficult project.

About Yolanda Klompstra:

Manager of the Costume department, Yolanda Klompstra, gets excited when a new design sketch is in the works. She fell in love with the profession at an early age when she was given a tour of the costume atelier of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet as a young girl. Yolanda studied Fashion Design at the Minerva Art Academy in Groningen, and immediately got to work on amazing projects at Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam. She transferred to the dance costume department and, as a production assistant there, was regularly in touch with Joke Visser, who ran NDT’s costume department for 30 years prior to Yolanda’s appointment. “We talked a lot about the costumes of Hans van Manen ballets. When Joke quit five years ago, that was the moment for me to transfer to NDT.”