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Boston Ballet’s off-stage chic

Howard Merlin, costume shop coordinator.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

For the Business Casual column, we go behind the scenes at various local workplaces to see what staffers wear to the office. At the Boston Ballet’s South End offices and studio, the team is gearing up for the debut of Mikko Nissinen’s “The Nutcracker” on Nov. 23, and we were able to see what they wear during one of their busiest times of the year. While the costume department created the nearly 350 new outfits for the production, the creative and production teams planned how to pack the theater and fill the stage. Meanwhile, the dancers rehearsed, ready to face what the season has in store — inside and outside the studio. Rachel Raczka

Howard Merlin

costume shop coordinator

What do you typically think about when deciding to get dressed every morning?

One of the creative parts of my job is that I dye and paint the ballet slippers, so I can dress well for work but I also have to be aware that I'm painting every day.

Do you find the ballet has been an influence on your personal style?

As a former dancer, I'm always conscious of what I'm putting on and the fit of my clothing. It's a key factor in my style.

Lia Cirio, principal dancerDina Rudick/The Boston Globe

Lia Cirio
principal dancer


You're wearing heels on your day off.

I swear by [my wedge sneakers] because I'm always in pointe shoes and my feet tend to hurt after a long day. I love these because they're actually really comfy but they still have a little edge. I can go out for drinks or just wear them while walking around during the day.

How would you define your personal style?

My friends say I'm bohemian chic. I really like pieces that drape but I like to edge it up a bit. I have an elephant tattoo on my wrist. I've always loved and collected [elephants] and my parents give me one with the trunk up before a show for good luck.

Tell us about your Dewdrop costume for "The Nutcracker."

It's so amazing. It's the most sparkle and rhinestones you'll ever see.

Ryan Fotter, artistic department assistantDina Rudick/The Boston Globe/Globe Staff

Ryan Fotter
artistic department assistant

Tell us about your outfit today.

Most of what I'm wearing right now were presents from friends. A lot of my friends are the dancers and they have very good style.

Do you think working at the Boston Ballet changes the way you get dressed?

It's very hard to work with 60 professional athletes with unique style and not think about how you look yourself.


What do you usually come dressed prepared for?

My job is a desk job, for the most part, so I do like to be comfortable but I always like to be presentable because you never know who you'll be working with face-to-face that day.

Charles Heightchew manager of costumes and wardrobeDina Rudick/The Boston Globe

Charles Heightchew

manager of costumes and wardrobe

What are you wearing today?

A cotton shirt from life/after/denim. I'm wearing pants that I make myself that are wool, and handmade shoes from a West Coast company called Cydwoq.

Tell us about these homemade pants.

My partner and I started making our own clothes and are trying to Kickstart making our own pants. I've been experimenting with myself. I pick out our particular fabrics based on their feel and color saturation. I started doing it because I'm not that 22-year-old guy shopping in stores, and as an adult it's harder to find pieces that you love and fit you the right way.

Lawrence Rines, corps de balletDina Rudick/The Boston Globe

Lawrence Rines,
corps de ballet

Do you think being part of the Boston Ballet has an influence on your personal style?

We're such creative people, so we put our creativity into everything we do.

Tell us about your accessories.

My ring is from David Yurman. It was a gift from my parents for getting into the company. I wear it every day as a reminder. And I'm really obsessed with Michael Kors watches. I have about 11 of them.


Do you find touring with the ballet has influenced the way you dress?

My shoes are from Helsinki from when we were on tour there. I find it interesting when you go to another country and see what people are doing in terms of personal style there. One thing, also from when we were in Helsinki, is a lot of the guys were putting long socks over the top of their pants pulled up to the mid-calf with a boot or a shoe. It looked awesome and super different.

Sara Marhamo, first hand in the costume shopDina Rudick/The Boston Globe

Sara Marhamo
costume shop first hand

Do you have a background in dance or fashion?

I went to MassArt for fashion design and joined the Boston Ballet in the costume shop about two years ago.

How is designing for dance different than designing womenswear?

It's another way of thinking about clothes. There's a lot of of considering about how the garment is supposed to function with the body. It's been a totally different perspective than with fashion.

What are you wearing today?

This is as close to a uniform as I ever get. I always wear a pair of jeans and a button-down and scarf.

What about your jewelry?

Most of my jewelry is one-offs or vintage or handmade. Some were gifts, some I bought. I really like jewelry that's made by local artisans. A few of my rings I picked up at the SoWa Market and my earrings were made by Amy Casher who has a studio over on Thayer Street in the South End.


Erin Wayne, merchandise and retail managerDina Rudick/The Boston Globe/Globe Staff

Erin Wayne
merchandise and retail manager

Has working at the Ballet had any influence on the way you dress?

I feel like I'm much more aware of my posture which probably helps my personal style. I keep my shoulders back a little more than usual. There have also been a couple of performances where a certain costume color palette has influenced my style. Last year when we did "Bella Figura," the costumes were really strong reds. I never wear red but it inspired me to go outside my comfort zone.

What are you wearing today?

I'm wearing a cobalt blue cashmere sweater by Kinross Cashmere, which is a Scottish company but in the US, their offices are near Wellesley. My pearls were a J.Crew find on eBay and my gold lame box pleat skirt is from Second Time Around.

Consignment shopping can be pretty hit or miss, do you have any favorite spots?

I go to the Charles Street store location [of Second Time Around] and I really like Boomerangs on Washington Street. It's also consignment but all their proceeds go to AIDS research.

Deborah Moe, director of public relations and social mediaDina Rudick/The Boston Globe/Globe Staff

Deborah Moe
director of public relations
and social media

Tell us about what you're wearing today.

This is my all-time favorite dress from last fall. I worked for Marc Jacobs for the past 12 years so I have quite a few of his pieces in my closet. On a gloomy Monday, I like wearing something that makes me happy.


What made you take the plunge from fashion to the ballet?

I wanted a change. I studied dance and literature in school but had gotten into the fashion world. I loved it but I really wanted to be more focused in my career and move back to Boston. I'm originally from here and my husband and I wanted to set down roots closer to family.

How would you describe the style around the office?

It's really eclectic. It's a creative atmosphere so there's a lot of individuality. It's really nice to work in a place where you can dress to please yourself.

Being so public-facing in your job, do you have any style guidelines you abide by?

I like to have to have some good go-to blazers. I wear skirts or dresses all the time but with a blazer, you can make anything more conservative very quickly. Being at the Ballet we do a lot of day-to-night, so it's good to have pieces that are easy to transition. I tend to dress from the bottom-up so I'll have the right heels and tights on and then it's easier to switch out the dress or a blouse for a dressier nighttime look.

Rachel Raczka can be reached at