“The Mastermind Behind Broadway’s Most Spectacular Costumes: Inside the World of William Ivey Long” 

 April 1, 2023

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Broadway is known for its mesmerizing stage productions, and one of the most crucial elements in making these productions a hit among the audience is the costumes. From the glitz and glamour of The Phantom of the Opera to the fantastical and colorful costumes in The Lion King, costumes play an essential role in defining the characters on stage. And, one man who holds the credit for creating some of the most remarkable costumes in Broadway’s history is William Ivey Long.

The Early Days of William Ivey Long

William Ivey Long was born in North Carolina into a family of creative artists. His parents were both writers, and he himself grew up to be a playwright. Long’s early exposure to the world of theatre led him to develop a keen interest in costume designing. However, it was not until he went to study at the Yale School of Drama that he realized his true calling and became fascinated with the art of costume designing.

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Long’s Career Journey

William Ivey Long’s career in costume designing began with small-scale productions. In 1980, he designed his first Broadway show, Nine, which was a hit. Long went on to design costumes for 20 other Broadway productions, including Hairspray, Cinderella, and The Producers. He has also designed costumes for the Metropolitan Opera, the North Carolina Opera, and the Houston Grand Opera.

The Creative Process

Long’s creative process is a reflection of his extensive knowledge of history, art, and theatre. He thoroughly researches the theme, plot, and characters of the show before beginning to design the costumes. Long is also known for his meticulous attention to detail and his ability to work within budgets. He frequently collaborates with the director and set designer to ensure that the costumes complement the overall vision of the production.

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Behind the Scenes

Designing the costumes is just the beginning of the process. Once the designs are finalized, they need to be brought to life. Long’s team, comprising costume makers, tailors, and seamstresses, works tirelessly to create the costumes. The team handcrafts each costume using high-quality materials and embroidery to ensure that every detail is just perfect.

Awards and Achievements

William Ivey Long’s work has not gone unnoticed. He has won six Tony Awards for his costume designs for productions such as The Producers, Hairspray, and Crazy for You. Long has also been inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and has been honored with a National Medal of Arts by the US government for his contributions to American theatre.

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Q1. How long does it take to design costumes for a Broadway production?

A1. Designing costumes for a Broadway production can take up to several months, depending on the complexity of the production and the number of costumes required.

Q2. Who pays for the costumes in a Broadway show?

A2. The production company pays for the costumes in a Broadway show, including the cost of materials, labor, and design fees.

Q3. What materials are used to make Broadway costumes?

A3. Broadway costumes are made using various materials such as silk, velvet, lace, and other high-quality fabrics.

Q4. How are the costumes maintained during the run of a show?

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A4. The costumes are regularly maintained during the run of a show, with any damages or wear and tear repaired as soon as possible.

Q5. How do costume designers work with actors?

A5. Costume designers work closely with actors to ensure that the costumes fit well and are comfortable to wear. The actors’ feedback is also taken into account before making any changes to the costumes.

Q6. How important are costumes in a Broadway production?

A6. Costumes are an essential part of a Broadway production as they help bring the characters to life and create an immersive experience for the audience.

Q7. What is the future of costume designing in theatre?

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A7. Costume designing in theatre will continue to evolve with technology and changing fashion trends. However, the fundamental principles of storytelling through costumes will remain the same.


William Ivey Long’s contribution to Broadway’s costume designing is undeniable. His creative prowess, attention to detail, and ability to bring characters to life on stage through costumes have made him one of the most respected and revered costume designers in the industry. Long’s journey from a young boy fascinated with the world of theatre to being a six-time Tony award-winning costume designer is an inspiration to many. His legacy will continue to influence the world of Broadway for years to come.

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