{Costume Design: Frozen, Part Three – Elsa}

Here are are at the final installment of my break down of the Frozen, Jr. costume. We’ve reached the “money costume:” Elsa’s transformation dress! I will also be breaking down Elsa’s “casual” since it was also an integral part of the design.

We’ll begin with the basic concept. Despite this being a middle school version of Frozen, we wanted to go all out with the transformation. We wanted that dress to disappear off of Elsa’s body at just the right moment. I started working on the plans MONTHS in advance. I had a solid idea well before we even held auditions.

The non-transformation version and the transformation version would look almost identical to each other. I designed a simple version of what Elsa wears in the movie: turquoise and black. This was paired with a sweeping magenta satin cape. It also had Elsa’s signature gloves, which were purchased on Amazon. They’re actually fleece winter gloves, because the satin gloves we bought we too difficult to take on an off in a hurry, and that was something that needed to happen fairly often.

Below you can see an image of the basic coronation dress with no bells and whistles. This one was not designed to pull off of her body. After she leaves the coronation and prior to “Let it Go” she runs back and changes into her transformation version of the dress.

Then it came time to figure out how to do the transformation. As I said, I spent months on this concept, thinking up general ideas along with back up plans just in case my initial thought was a complete disaster.

In looks, the transformation dress looks just like the regular coronation dress however there is special rigging. My initial plan was velcro, up and down all the seams (the top of the sleeves and neckline, as well as under the sleeves and fully down the bodice). When we tested this, it worked well, however we soon discovered that the velcro was temperamental. The throw-away/scrap fabric used for the prototype was not as sturdy as the fabric used for the final version, and the velcro just didn’t pull seamlessly. We also realized that the skirt fabric opened too much and revealed the dress underneath.

And so I went back to the drawing board, and came up with a different design for the rigging:

This version still featured fully split arms, but instead of splitting down the side seams, I split on a diagonal down the back and it met in the middle of the skirt. This solved the problem of the skirt opening when Elsa moved. However, we will needed to solve the seamless pulling issue.

Well… purse magnets to the rescue! Elsa’s dress was held together by magnets, strong enough to hold the dress when needed, but weak enough to pull right off when given just a little bit of resistance. Inside the dress we build a pulley system that two kids would use to pull the dress off at just the right moment, creating a seamless transformation!

IT WORKED. You cannot imagine how exciting it was the day the dress pulled off in one fell swoop!

Unfortunately, I do not have the capability to post videos here, but here’s a link to the transformation on YouTube. It’s a montage of all three of our actress at all six of our performances. One is a close up and the other is wide shot.

Now, if you took a break from reading to watch the video, you’ll have seen the blue dress. This dress was another project that started in one iteration, but completely transformed over time. Originally, I was planning this super sequined, gaudy thing, but as I got further in the process of making it, I got more and more unsure. Finally, I ended up buying completely different fabric, and going in another direction entirely.

For example, this was my original fabric:

It’s pretty, it’s sparkly, it looks like “frozen fractals,” but it was also incredibly tacky. And it 100% did not go with the skirt fabric I had chosen.

And so we changed it up. I found this GORGEOUS blue fabric:

I splurged on it, I’m not ashamed to admit, and I am so glad I did. It ended up being just what the Elsa dress needed. I used a Vogue pattern as the design. Here’s how it turned out:

It doesn’t photograph quite a beautiful as it does onstage, as you can’t see the way the lights caught the sequins and literally made her look sparkly. It was amazing.

And just for good measure, here’s our Thursday night Elsa and Anna trying their dresses on (I just love this picture, and I think it shows off their dresses really well!). This was the first day they put the costumes on, and they were so happy!

I am so proud of the work we all did on this show. It was our most successful production to date: nearly sold out shows on all three nights!

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