Paloma Young Deconstructs Five of Her Tony-Nominated Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 Costume Pieces
June 5th, 2017
by Paloma Young
Costume designer Paloma Young won a Tony Award in 2012 for her Broadway debut designing Peter and the Starcatcher. This year, she created the costumes for two new musicals, the WWII-era tearjerker Bandstand and the most Tony-nominated show of the season, the sexy, fierce Russian extravaganza Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812. For her work on Comet, Paloma received a 2017 Tony nomination.
Scroll on as Paloma gives BroadwayBox an in-depth look at five costume pieces and the history, reasoning, and detail that went into each.
Amber Gray / “Helene”—The Ball
For the Broadway transfer, we wanted to really embrace the idea that the Kuragins are hosting a costume tournament (without distracting too much from the central action of Anatole's conquest). While the other guests wear animalistic masks and lace ""porn bar" eye covers, Helene does not need to hide her sexuality and intentions behind a disguise. She flaunts her role as a dark cupid, bringing Natasha into her brother's embrace.
Cathryn Wake / Ensemble—The Opera
The Opera is Natasha's first big outing in Moscow high society and she's totally seduced by the color and the sparkle and the glamour (in contrast to her simple white silk gown). The ensemble when they enter should feel like high fashion (if with a hat on top of a hat gaudy Russian flair), but up close the audience should notice that the materials are cheap, and the looks cobbled together from thrift store bits and 99 cent store costume jewelry. Catherine's Opera look features a top from the Macy's junior homecoming dance clearance rack, a skirt from Beacon's Closet thrift, and a vintage ‘80s beaded belt. Note the ripped star fishnets.
Ken Clark / Ensemble—The Duel & Folk Costume
Because the ensemble costumes are often shaped by the vibe of the actor in fittings, there is often a through line in their tracks. In his folk look, Ken has some cheeky War and Peace references (Napoleon on a Bicycle!) and also picks up on Ken's southern boy hunter roots (The vest is an actual vintage Ballet Russe costume piece I purchased in France). When we move into “The Duel”, Ken's t-shirt does a time jump and we get a 21st century megalomaniac aiming at world domination: Putin on a bear.
Gelsey Bell / “Princess Mary”
Mary's jumper is inspired by a dress worn by a Russian religious sect called The Old Believers. The shape is less westernized than what most of the aristocracy in our skit are wearing. Though the shapes are simple, we still wanted to use fabric that felt worthy of a princess. The brocade really explodes with texture in Bradley King's downlight. The excessive buttons wanted to feel like a nod to Mary's nervous anxiety and demonstrative piety. She's like a walking rosary.
Denée Benton / “Natasha” —Act 2
She's in full romance heroine mode in her head. She's sexually awoken and floating around the house in a dream cloud of fantasy. She's mirroring her lover's taste for black and white, and the fine silk French lace has dancing paisleys, just like Anatole's roguish pretty-boy vest. This look is to set up a stark contrast with Natasha's nightgown in her last scene that is simple and solid, the cotton of her country childhood in a shape that allows her young womanly body to retreat.
See Paloma Young's incredible, Tony-nominated costumes up close and all around you in 'Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812' at Broadway's Imperial Theatre.