Designing for 'Dancing'

Amanda Wolff shows off her winning sketches in the costume department of the Walnut Street Theatre. (Akira Suwa / Staff Photographer )
Amanda Wolff shows off her winning sketches in the costume department of the Walnut Street Theatre. (Akira Suwa / Staff Photographer )

The Walnut Street Theatre's Amanda Wolff, 22, will see her costume on a "DWTS" semifinalist couple Tuesday.

Posted: November 15, 2011

As Amanda Wolff prepares to sit in the audience of Dancing With the Stars Tuesday night, she still can't believe her good fortune: One of DWTS's four semifinalist couples will wear a studded black ensemble that she dreamed up.

"I'm really excited, I can't believe all this happened in two weeks," said the apprentice costume designer at the Walnut Street Theatre. In late October, Wolff, 22, entered a DWTS contest that asked would-be designers to submit sketches for  costumes.

The winner would see their costume the first night of the semifinals. Wolff, an aspiring Hollywood costume designer, won.

"It would be awesome if it was Hope [Solo] and Max [Chmerkovskiy]," said Wolff, a big DWTS fan who admits that couple is her favorite.

"But I don't know who's going to wear it."

Wolff's assignment was to design an outfit appropriate for the quickstep paso doble. She also knew the song would be Lady Gaga's hit "Bad Romance."

Bingo: One of Wolff's senior projects while at Rutgers University's Mason Gross School of the Arts was to design costumes for Lady Gaga and her backup dancers inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins. (For the record, there was no meat dress for gluttony.)

Still, Wolff said, she wasn't sure.

"I didn't think I could get it done," said Wolff, who was knee-deep in sewing children's costumes for the Walnut's presentation of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I, which runs through Jan. 8.

"But it was my mom that said, 'Why not go for it?' "

It took Wolff one evening to sketch her ideas.

She started with the female dancer's costume and came up with a rugged-yet-girly studded bustier accented with a single long sleeve fashioned from black lace.

Wolff complemented the top with a mostly black ankle-length skirt that fades into red at the hem. The skirt fits low at the waist to show off toned abs - a belly-baring design that probably rules out talk-show host Ricki Lake and her partner, Derek Hough. (The other semifinalists are actor J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff and Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke.)

For extra pizzazz, Wolff added a Wonder Woman-esque headband and cuffs as well as pointy-toed shoes with black studs.

"I hope they keep the studs on the shoes," Wolff said.

She designed the matching costume with roomy trousers, for the high kicks, and studded vest with ripped sleeves.

"I wanted to keep it edgy, but appropriate for children," Wolff said.

Though Wolff designed the costume, the DWTS staff will make it. She doesn't know what fabric they will use or if they intend to keep her costume black.

Wolff will be as surprised as we are when her look appears on TV.

Wolff, who grew up in Dresher, has been sewing since she was 7 and her mother taught her how. When she started college, she first wanted to work in computer graphics and design, then realized she didn't want to sit in front of a computer all day.

While a junior she landed an internship at the Upper Darby Summer Stage. There she met Mary Folino, lead costume designer for the Summer Stage productions and assistant costume-shop manager at the Walnut Street Theatre.

"It was the speed and the quality that she was able to produce that really impressed me," Folino said. "We are so happy for her. We can't wait to watch."

On Sunday Wolff flew out to Los Angeles with her mother. She's staying at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and taking in the sights before the DWTS taping.

She says she's grateful for the opportunity.

"So many people are graduating from school and can't get a job in their fields," she said. "I'm just so happy this has happened to me. Who knows? It might lead to something even bigger."


Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at ewellington@phillynews.com, 215-854-2704, or @ewellingtonphl on Twitter.

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