The New York City Ballet's costume shop is located on the eighth floor of a building in Lincoln Center. There are spectacular views of the Hudson River, but no one's looking out the windows. They're all working with a quiet intensity.
"It's a shop full of 18 people," says Marc Happel, the City Ballet's director of costumes. "Amazing craftspeople, machine operators, hand stitching, we have three drapers. I mean the level of costume-making here is probably the highest you could get."
In addition to preparing costumes for the regular season, next week the City Ballet will present its annual Fall Gala, where fashion designers are paired with choreographers to create new dances and new costumes. That means the costume shop has less than three months to build garments designed by people who don't usually worry about athletic, sweaty dancers.
That's where Happel provides invaluable assistance. He's run the shop for 11 years, and before that worked on Broadway and at the Metropolitan Opera.
"Many times the fabrics that [the designers] do come up with we often use in ballet, like chiffon or organza or crepe du chine," he says. "But what we have at our disposal is companies that make stretch chiffon and stretch crepe du chine. So that's to our advantage."