Stars kick up their heels in quick-time costumes
Mon Apr 6, 12:34 pm ET
Samantha Critchell, Ap Fashion Writer



NEW YORK – There's a secondary contest running each week on TV's "Dancing With the Stars": Who will have the best costume?

Certainly it's not a stretch to think that tech whiz and philanthropist Steve Wozniak wouldn't have lasted as long as he did this season if dance partner Karina Smirnoff hadn't worn those barely there outfits like her sheer, black cha-cha number.

But costume designer Randall Christensen says he doesn't play favorites. Instead, he keeps his fingers crossed that there'll be no wardrobe malfunction. So far, he — and his dancers — have been lucky.

There could have been some dicey moments during season five when Melanie Brown wore her pleather dominatrix getup, but it was only "slightly naughty," Christensen says. "That all came together wonderfully. All that was missing was the whip — but it looked fantastic!"

The biggest challenge in season eight so far was retrofitting a costume that was supposed to be worn by injured 5-foot-9 Nancy O'Dell for her replacement, 5-foot-5 Melissa Rycroft of "The Bachelor."

Christensen runs against the same clock as the celebrities trying to learn their new dances. He gets his assignment after each results show when the style — and remaining celebrities — are announced.

The men don't take too long and they always look just fine, he says, but the women have much more at stake. It helps if the stars already have an eye for fashion; he'll take any help in speeding up the process.

"We make the costumes in four days. I get the music assignment as soon as they get it, and I just play it and play it again. We need to get a feel for it," Christensen explains. "I'm playing it all the time, my assistants are playing it. The energy is so intense and exciting."

As soon as the stars for the season are announced, Christensen meets with each one to build a database of their measurements and preferences. Then, each week he gets another 15 minutes with each couple.

"The competitive juices about costumes kick in after the first week. They want to show it off and be over the top," Christensen says.

So far, Christensen hasn't found the right person to wear the costume he's eager to make of a handpainted dragon on a dress with rhinestone scales. There's a tipping point, he says, where the stars worry they look like drag queens.


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