Designer Randall Christensen is the Oscar, Calvin and Ralph in his field. Christensen is the costume designer for “Dancing with the Stars,” and instead of of a runway, his clothes take a turn on the dance floor.
Christensen is an Emmy award-winning costume designer. He contributed gowns for Jennifer Lopez in the movie “Shall We Dance” and designed costumes for an entire show for Princess Cruises’ newest ship the Ruby Princess.
My column in today’s Life was a question-and-answer with Christensen. Here are more detailed answers and more questions.
How long does it take to make each costume? We average about 40-50 hours per ladies’ costume, based on how complex the design is, and how much trim/beading/rhinestones are on the costume.
How many people help with sewing, cutting, beading, etc. Typically we have one seamstress sew, fit, finish and bead/trim a costume. They get to know their lady’s body much better that way, and thus get better fits as the weeks progress. Sometimes if there are lots of beads and rhinestones we will have two to three ladies working on one dress.
What happens to the costume after the celebrity wears it? The celebrity has the option of purchasing any (or all) of their costumes worn on the show. Lots of the costumes go on the national tour. After the costumes have been used, they are shipped to my company in Phoenix, Ariz. There, Randall Designs offers the costumes for sale. Lots of people cannot believe that we are actually selling THE costume worn by the celebrity or pro dancer, and not a copy. We actually DO offer the original costume for purchase.
Does the professional dancer have any input into the style of the costume. Absolutely! I consider the professional dancer to be the director of their particular scene (dance). So I take direction from the pro dancer, and go from there. Does the celebrity? It is so very important to have the celebrity’s input as well. With the extremely short timeline that we are working under, I don’t have time to convince the celebrity to wear something that he or she is not comfortable wearing. If they’re not getting the idea, and not liking it, we move on to another idea. They really have to like it initially, or we just come up with another idea.
It is a combination of all three of us working together. Sometimes the professional has definite ideas, and sometimes they need guidance, and an infusion of fresh ideas. Keep in mind, these couples have only received their music and dance assignment MINUTES before they come to see me! So, there is a lot of exchanging of ideas, googling, youtubing, etc. to pull as many visuals as possible, and nail their look, in the 15-20 minutes that I get with each couple. It’s maddening!
Who has been your favorite celebrity so far? I can honestly say that I really have not had ONE favorite celebrity. When these celebs come to me on Tuesday nights, they’re usually exhausted both physically and emotionally. They really just want to go home and sleep, and they have to (with me, also exhausted) come up with next week’s FABULOUS designs. Their trust in me is phenomenal, and I LOVE them all because of it. Have some been a bit more challenging, sure. But in the end, they really depend on me and the professional dancer, trusting our experience with the costumes.
What is the worst costume mishap you have had while working on the show? I have been quite fortunate that there have been almost no costume mishaps live! That’s mainly because we have a full dress rehearsal only a couple of hours before we go live. If something is going to go wrong, it normally will manifest itself during the dress rehearsal. Although, I have to say, when Monique Coleman did (I think it was) the jive, in her yellow fringe two-piece costume, everything went fantastically during dress rehearsal. But, then during the actual live show, she kicked up her heels a bit higher than she did at rehearsal, caught her heel in the fringe, and pulled the costume 3/4 of the way down her hips, so her booty was hanging out quite a lot! And of course, it was on Jimmy Kimmel and everywhere else for the next couple of weeks! Oops!
Is there a correlation between the costume and the dance or the music? Absolutely there is a correlation between the costume, the dance AND the music. All three elements are crucial to customize each couples’ looks every week. We do no design ANYTHING in advance! The professional dancer wants to wait until they get their music assignment, after Tuesday night’s Results Show. The music is the springboard to everything that we do – costume wise. That song is played over and over again, trying to get the essence of the song’s magic working. then we go from there, choosing colors, etc. We always design the ladies’ costume first, whether they’re the pro or the celebrity. The lady is the picture, and the man is the frame. His costume ties in with her look, but it always starts wtih the ladies first.
What makes a costume a great costume? I feel like I have done my best when the costume goes perfectly with the music, the couples’ dance style, and emphasizes the best parts of the couples’ dance abilities. When that happens, I feel like the magic has truly happened!