What if I could live out of my passion? I guess that thought already crossed your mind. Every “maker” at some point has it. I have it too sometimes. Well today we meet a very special lady that actually decided to do it. I mean, for real. At 35, Marion worked for the Super Bowl, Disney and le Cirque du Soleil. Is she a football player turned dancer? Of course not, she is a costume maker. Come, I’ll introduce you.
“My first contract? A puppet show!”
We sometimes think costumes are only for movies or Halloween. Wrong! First contract Marion landed was for a puppet show in Paris. Because of course you won’t find puppet costumes at Gap or H&M so you need a specialist to create them!
But let’s rewind a little: when she was a little girl, Marion wished to become a hairdresser. A first internship when she was 15 will change that forever: she discovers her true passion for sewing. Because she adores Thierry Mugler, she chooses costuming. The good news is, France – country of fashion if there is – has amazing (if somewhat complicated to follow) learning programs for that.
Wardrobe manager, dresser… You have to gain technique and recognition
After her studies, Marion started with short contracts, as it is often the case in the industry. She took care of costumes at the Opera of Paris for example, where she learnt the secrets of ironing a tutu without burning through all the layers.
For those interested, the trick is to start from the bottom and work your way up ironing layer after layer.
“What you have to understand quickly” – she says – “is your are not only here to sew, but also to sell your work, like in any other industry“. One short contract after the other, she finally manages to land a permanent position at Disney (the one close to Paris) where she is in charge of some of the costumes at the parade:
“Disney is a world in itself, where you meet tons of different people. You can have amazing experiences there, like the time Michael Jackson went backstage to congratulate the dancers. Crazy moment.”
Welcome to the Haute Couture of circus
Barely turned 27, Marion wanted a change in her life. She quits her job and moves to Montreal. A town famous for its poutine and laugh festival but also for… having the headquarters of Cirque du Soleil. To supply for the 20 shows the company has around the world, an army of seamstresses work either directly for them or in an Atelier attached to it. That’s where Marion landed! It grew considerably when she was there, as new shows developped, from 3 employees to 200 now.
“Working for Cirque du Soleil, I discovered what haute couture circus meant. To create the amazing pieces you see on scene, they use all the trick in the book and very complex techniques: printed lycra, painted silk etc. It took me a whole year to fully master all those skills.”
A good lesson for those thinking you can be Jean-Paul Gaulthier after watching 3 youtube videos!
If she doesn’t design the costumes, Marion is in charge of figuring out how the pieces fit together to create very intricate designs: “While there is general barely more than 4 pieces of fabric to make your regular daily blouse, a grasshopper costumes might have 50 to 100 pieces to assemble, all delivered in a bag. It is like a giant 3D puzzle you have to solve.”
And perfection is de rigueur: “Cirque du Soleil would send every week an expert to test the quality of the creations. And you better do a good job from the start because 2nd fitting are not paid!”
Will there, she also worked for Madonna’s dancers during the halftime show of the Super Bowl in 2012 :
” Unlike in France where rules are more strict, in the US/Canada, if your work is appreciated you can rise quickly. That’s how I managed to become a team leader after one year only. That would never have happened in France.”
Even wax dolls have a personal seamstress
Today Marion is back in France. She works full time for the Musée Grévin, french equivalent of Madame Tussaud (which like the name says, doesn’t appear to really be french). She helps them open new outlets around the world.
“Each new museum – like the one in Prague – will feature stars and historical figures you need to dress. Sometimes living persons gift us with a piece of clothing we can use, but not to often hopefully!”
And that’s how the private investigator mission starts, to find the best inspired style that will embody the caracter. “once we are decided on a look, I take care of creation from A to Z”. And it is not like following a pattern from Vogue, you have to extrapolate using pictures only, without touching the fabric. A wax doll is also rigid and often asymetric so ou will have to twist the pattern to take that into account.
One of Marion’s favorite is Kate Perry. She recreated one of her signature glitter/sweets body. It took 2 months to complete.
The whole new world of wedding dresses
Marion’s new thing? Playing with white fabrics to create wedding dresses for her friends! Even if the bride lives in Canada.
” I love my job. To create with your head and then with your hands is what I enjoy the most. To be precise and creative at the sametime. Your reward? If you give your best, you can transform a piece of fabric into a flower, a pair of pants or a hat : any that springs from your imagination.”
Now do you want to be a costume designer? Not yet? Stay tuned, I have plenty of other amazing people for you to meet! Follow th blog and you’ll see…
This is such a unique post! I did see Cirque a few years ago, and have no doubt in my mind just how much work goes into each show and the costume design. Your pictures are beautiful and the article itself was such a fun read. Thank you for posting!
Thx Stéphanie! I love it when blogging is a good excuse to meet out of the ordinary people ^^