Close up shot of costume in Follies Close up shot of costume in Follies
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Ever wanted to know what 600,000 Swarovski crystals looks like?

Imelda Staunton sparkles as one of the stars of Follies – but she’s not the only thing on stage that’s dazzling audiences. We go behind-the-scenes for an exclusive look at the costumes that all the critics are raving about.

By Vanessa Keys.
We go behind-the-scenes for an exclusive look at the costumes that all the critics are raving about. The cast of Follies. Photo by Johan Persson
Staged for the first time at the National Theatre, Stephen Sondheim's Follies has returned to the London stage in triumph. Critics have been unanimous in declaring the NT production the hit show of 2017, with praise not only for its knock-out cast but also the colossal set and extravagant array of costumes.

The lavish aesthetic of the show is the work of designer Vicki Mortimer, who has brought to life more than 160 costumes, 62 headdresses and 129 pairs of tap shoes – each adorned with more than 600,000 Swarovski crystals.

As you can imagine, this level of opulence is absolutely spectacular when viewed en masse – and is especially impressive when seen on the big screen, where the array of crystals, feathers and sequins can be ogled in extraordinary detail.

Here’s a sneak peek of what you can expect:
We go behind-the-scenes for an exclusive look at the costumes that all the critics are raving about. Emily Goodenough. Photo by Johan Persson

The show is staged in both past and present

Set in New York, Follies opens in 1971 with a fabulous party held inside the once opulent but now crumbling Weisman Theatre. It’s been thirty years since the final Follies performance and the showgirls have gathered to drink, dance and look back on the past. As they reminisce about their hopes and dreams, their lost loves and disappointments, the story flashes back to a visual feast of the original showgirls singing and sashaying in all their feathered glory.
We go behind-the-scenes for an exclusive look at the costumes that all the critics are raving about. Emily Langham who plays Young Carlotta backstage in hair and makeup. Photo by Ellie Kurttz
We go behind-the-scenes for an exclusive look at the costumes that all the critics are raving about. Close up of the costume of Aimee Hodnett who plays Young Hattie. Photo by Lucy Barriball
We go behind-the-scenes for an exclusive look at the costumes that all the critics are raving about. Leash Mollyneaux. Photo by Johan Persson

Historical accuracy was paramount

To ensure the costumes were accurate from a historical point of view, Vicki Mortimer researched previous Ziegfeld Follies acts, paying particular attention to the avant garde European productions from 1918 to 1941. "I wanted to honour the artistic aspirations of the original shows, so that the dreams and hopes of the characters would have real importance: not seem trivial or trite," said Mortimer in an interview with Vogue UK.
We go behind-the-scenes for an exclusive look at the costumes that all the critics are raving about. The costume of Sarah Marie Maxwell who plays young Solange. Photo by Lucy Barriball
We go behind-the-scenes for an exclusive look at the costumes that all the critics are raving about. The costume of Sarah Marie Maxwell who plays young Solange. Photo by Lucy Barriball
We go behind-the-scenes for an exclusive look at the costumes that all the critics are raving about. Emily Goodenough. Photo by Johan Persson

The costumes are so much more than just clothes

For the scenes set in the present day, the audience witnesses the characters returning to the now crumbling Broadway theatre in 1971 for a reunion for former Follies performers. "For this group,” said Mortimer to Vogue, “the decisions were primarily internal and emotional – why did each character decide to attend the reunion? What is at stake, and how much does this evening matter to their sense of self? We aimed to present each woman as a clear individual, with a real life outside the event of the party."
We go behind-the-scenes for an exclusive look at the costumes that all the critics are raving about. Imelda Staunton. Photo by Johan Persson
We go behind-the-scenes for an exclusive look at the costumes that all the critics are raving about. The label in the costume of Imelda Staunton who plays Sally Durrant. Photo by Lucy Barriball
We go behind-the-scenes for an exclusive look at the costumes that all the critics are raving about. The costume of Imelda Staunton who plays Sally Durrant. Photo by Lucy Barriball

Fast facts

There are more than 50 wigs used in the show, all with real human hair

There are roughly 1,800 pins and clips used in every performance

The cast goes through three jumbo size cans of hairspray each performance

It takes 30 hours of manpower to get all the wigs ready for just one performance

12 sets of eyelashes are used in each performance
We go behind-the-scenes for an exclusive look at the costumes that all the critics are raving about. Wig of Imelda Staunton being prepared for the show. Photo by Lucy Barriball

Don’t miss the show that everyone is talking about. Experience Follies as it deserves to be seen, in sumptuous, dazzling detail captured in the highest definition.

Get Follies tickets and times.