Prima Ballerina: A Ballerina Paper Doll in Color

logo-aa-ballerina-colorSo, one of my first jobs while working in library school was to assist with the digitization of a massive collection of costume design drawings from a group known as the Motley Group (not to be confused with Motley Crue). This let to me eventually finishing my library degree and going onto a degree in Theater History with an emphasis on the history of technical design work.

All branches of theatrical design are about communicating information to the audience seamlessly. In Romeo and Juliet, for example, it is traditional to costume the warring families in different colors. Romeos family might be all in reds, oranges and yellows while Juliet’s family might be in greens, blues and purples. This is useful, because it communicates with the audience immediately which character is associated with which group- important in a play with about 20 characters. Opera and ballet also have costuming traditions. In a medium where people don’t speak and the plots are often rather odd, identifying characters by their colors and style is even more important.

So, when I was selecting colors and costume designs for my ballerina paper dolls, I was well aware that there were traditions that I needed to take notice of. I did my best to keep these costumes fairly “traditional” with the exception of the Firebird. I didn’t like either tutus or the unitards that seemed to be common, so I went with something a little more contemporary.

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Working left to right, the first costume was from the ballet Coppélia- usually costumed in a “folk” style which is also often used for the first act of the ballet Gisselle or any ballet where there seems to be milkmaids and/or county fairs. Next is a costume for the Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker. This is a costume I entirely invented when I didn’t like any of the versions I was seeing online. For my firebird, I chose to do a more modern costume, rather than a traditional tutu. If I was going to costume something no in a tutu, the firebird seemed like the logical choice. Monica is dancing the part of Odette in Swan Lake- next week’s paper doll, Mia, will have a costume for Odile. It is traditional that the part is danced by the same ballerina, but I wanted to split up the costumes across two sets. For Swan Lake, I settled on a traditional sort of costume with some feather detailing and a headdress. From Sleeping Beauty, Monica is dancing the part of the Lilac Fairy. Obviously, her costume was going to be lilac.


  1. I worked tech on a production of the Firebird, and the Firebird’s costume looked almost exactly like yours.

    These are gorgeous. Do you mind if I share with my ballet studio? The kids would love this.

  2. Hey Rachel, I really love to color your paper dolls. Except, my parents say it is too childish. I have autism, depression, and anxiety. What can I say to change their minds?

    1. Hi Melinda. I’m not Rachel but I am a young adult who collects dolls and loves coloring. I would approach your parents calmly and rationally and explain how coloring can help with your anxiety and depression. I know many adults older than me who color for therapeutic reasons like that. I would also point out that adult coloring books are some of the best selling books on Amazon. A quick search shows many of the top sellers are for stress relief. I hope this somewhat helps.

    2. Hello Rachel, I second what Lina said.
      Coloring can be very calming, and it is actually used in therapy for depression and anxiety, at least here in Austria.
      Also, I believe there is nothing childish about anything that you enjoy doing, and definitely not coloring! 🙂

    3. I sent you an email about this which I hope helps. In the mean time. I agree with both Lina’s and Yersinia. Coloring is a common form of stress relief for a lot of people and I wouldn’t be ashamed of it.

  3. Thanks ladies! I also have autism and I want to show I’m listening (without playing Social Russian Roulette!). Art is a conversation using pictures not words.

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