Fashion With the Stars


Nov. 20, 2006 — -- Sizzling and sultry.

We're not just describing Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke's moves that helped them win on "Dancing With the Stars," but rather the costumes that added to the shake and shimmy.

It's no doubt that dancing is the sure way to win on the show, but it never hurts when the stars dress to impress. 

So while they're busy working the floor, costumers are working the sewing machine.

"Costume plays a huge part in getting the audience pulled into rooting for them, but they've got to back it up with their dancing," said "Dancing With the Stars" costume designer Randall Christensen.

Normally, costumes as exuberant as the ones on "Dancing With the Stars" would take weeks or months to complete.  The wardrobe crew gets it done in about three days.

After the results shows on Wednesdays, the couples make a mad dash to wardrobe to give the designer their ideas for their next costume.

"They really don't want to decide their costumes until they get their music," Christensen said.   "The music dictates the theme of their style of costume."

On Thursdays, costumers pick out the fabric, usually in downtown Los Angeles. Then, it's handed over the manufacturer.

By Friday, the costumes are sewn. Saturday, they're fitted. Sunday, the rhinestones go on. And Monday, the costumes are delivered.

Dancers don't get the final product until two hours or three hours before the show at dress rehearsal.

Getting the costumes at the last minute can mean little mishaps turn into big problems.

"One of the most panicked moments we had was with Willa Ford, her last dance," Christensen said.

That night, Ford was wearing a teal-blue rhinestone costume that kept shifting and exposing half of one of her breasts.  

To avoid the wardrobe malfunction, Christensen bought and dyed material to cover her.

"We actually had three people sewing and stoning on that dress in the hour and a half before we had the show time," Christensen said. 

"So when she was dancing, the glue on the rhinestones was still wet."

While it was Burke who pushed for the color green in their winning performance, Smith mastered fashion and the football. 

He chimed in on the shear bottom of his green shirt, and he came up with the MC Hammer parachute pants.

"He is a clotheshorse!" an excited Christensen said. "That man knows how to dress. … And he loves those costume shoes.  We did a pair of custom shoes for every single dance he ever did."

On the other side of the floor, Mario Lopez turned to a fellow star to inspire his freestyle look with Karina Smirnoff.

"He liked the look that Justin Timberlake had on one of his videos, and that's where we got the idea for his white hooded jacket, and the sneakers, and the white pants," Christensen said.

Smirnoff was also wild about the pair of Christian Dior high-strap heels that she wore in the finale round. 

Even when one of the straps broke during the dress rehearsal on Wednesday, she found a way to get it fixed.

There are many tricks of the thread to keep these stars looking stellar with every step. 

Guys have underwear or elastic straps sewn into their costumes to keep their shirts in place.   Many of them also have elastic stirrups to keep the leg of their pants down. For women, it's a little different.

"Most of the dresses are built on bodysuits. … So it's essentially a bathing suit with a dress on top," said "Dancing With the Stars" costume manager Kirstin Gallo. 

"These dance costumes for the women are not comfortable. … And they're tight, so they stay up."

While it all seems complicated, the core of the costumes is simple.

"We've taken something that has such a level of cheesiness -- because it's rhinestones and spandex -- and we've turned them into [these] beautiful … fashion-forward garments," Gallo said.

Fans say the costumes are eye candy for some and eyesores for others.

Favorites include Vivica A. Fox's hues and shades.

"The bullfight outfit. … When she did the bullfight dancing. … That was a good outfit," said Francesca Devoto. "It was just really colorful."

For the men's wardrobes some prefer it simple.

"I liked Jerry Springer. … [In] the dance that he dedicated to his daughter," said Deborah Henson-Devoto. "The way he was dressed was really suave and debonair -- totally not the image you're used to seeing for Jerry Springer."

Others had a mixed reaction when Smith hit the stage in MC Hammer pants.

"I don't like the pants, but I do remember the era," Veronica Gallegos said with a laugh. "It was taking it back, and it did go to his song."

Some fans preferred when Lopez didn't bare it all.

"If you've got it flaunt it, and he definitely has it," Henson-Devoto said. "But for me, I like the more tailored … little more classy type of look."

Look for rhinestones flashing near you as "Dancing With the Stars" goes on tour starting in San Diego in December and takes a bow in Atlantic City in February.

The show will feature popular costumes and familiar faces like last season's winners, Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke.

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