The painted costumes of Cinderella

For the costumes worn throughout Cinderella, designer John Macfarlane created a suite of hand-painted designs. The challenge was then to create physical items of clothing as richly detailed as his illustrations.

These never-before-published photos, from the Wardrobe department’s own reference folder, reveal some of the ways in which this was done.


In many cases, John broke down the surface of the costumes into smaller pieces, drawn with feathered edges to mimic the brush strokes of his designs. In the photos above you can see a top worn by one of the men in the ballroom scene in Act II broken down in this way.

The outline of each of these shapes was copied onto a master sheet, which John then hand-painted in rich inks that matched his designs. You can see an example of this below. Once complete, the sheets were photographed, and printed onto fabric.


Each individual piece was then cut out by hand, resulting in a jigsaw puzzle of brushstrokes. These pieces were hemmed, and stitched into place on the costumes. The Wardrobe department’s own reference folder contains additional examples of these pieces, one of which you can see here, along with a finished example:

As well as allowing us to physically realise the depth of John’s designs, it also saves time when producing replica costumes for the difference dancers who will dance each role over the three-week season. The technique also proved invaluable when creating the costume for the Autumn Fairy – a tutu made from dozens of leaves in deep autumnal colours!

Here you can see an example of one of the individual sections produced for another tutu worn in Act II, as well as the final costume: