The women who sing, dance and strut the catwalk in Tarnished Frocks and Divas are all over aged over 40, the majority have never been on the stage before. "They are real," says Vicki Reid who loves designing for them.
Unreal is how most of them will feel once they are in costume with makeup, hair and head pieces. It's this new persona that gives them the boost of confidence to dance their best, belt out songs, sashay the catwalk as if born to it.
"We often bring costumes to rehearsals," says Vicki. "When a performer tries their outfit, you feel the excitement as they get a glimpse of the transformation to come."
As director of garment design for Tarnished Frocks and Divas, the 220 costumes that will transform the cast are Vicki's responsibility. They cause the odd wakeful moment in the middle of the night.
"Usually with a good idea, not a panic attack," she laughs.
Vicki works from a purpose-built studio beside her home on the family's orchard outside Te Puke. It was part of a recent renovation.
"My husband wanted me out of the house because I am too messy!"
With collages and cuttings on the wall, two sewing machines on the bench one side, computer the other, racks of semi completed garments, boxes of fabrics and bits and bobs which come in handy, the workroom exudes organised chaos; with the emphasis on organised.
Vicki leads a team of seven designers dotted all over the Bay of Plenty, one in Hamilton of whom she enthuses, "Rhys has designed for several fashion houses and worked for Zandra Rhodes and his ideas and execution are fantastic."
Vicki's varied creative journey suits this role perfectly. She studied fashion design and pattern making at Wellington Polytech before working in both fashion and theatre costume design. She and a friend developed a brand, Oyl, which was shown at NZ Fashion Week in 2009. By then she was married with two dancing daughters and started applying her skills to designing costumes for shows staged by the Gillian Moore School of Dance.
The many costumes she's devised for 17-year-old Stella and her younger sister, Maia, 14, and their dancing troupe have provided ideas for Vicki who is creating costumes for seven dance routines in Tarnished Frocks and Divas and for the lead characters who each have three or four changes during the show.
The main source of inspiration for the design team are the story boards by director Marilyn Collins-Smith and the way she conveys the atmosphere of the 2019 show, titled Xanthia, its moods and feelings which Vicki and her team interpret and convey in costumes.
Tarnished Frocks and Divas has a well-earned reputation as an extravaganza of the catwalk and this show is no exception. Vicki says while the raw material is vintage some of the designs are contemporary and even futuristic.
"The catwalk segments reflect the evolution of the story and display some dramatic shifts in styles, materials used and colour palettes."
Vicki has costumes for Annie Crummer and Jackie Clarke already hanging in her workroom. She is working on ideas for Caitriona Fallon and Bryony Skillington who also play lead parts.
"We've got something so completely 'out there' for Bryony we were a little worried that she might not want to wear it. But as a performer she loved it and can't wait to strut it on stage!"
While they all collaborate on ideas, each of the design team works on a different segment. All garments are reinvented from recycling clothing taken from the show's hoard and found by trawling second hand shops.
"We meet regularly in the wardrobe room at the Trustpower Arena," says Vicki, who is delighted with the mix of talent on her team. "We sew most of the costumes ourselves.
The designs are so fluid that we actually style on the garments, cutting and resewing as a pre-worn article of clothing takes on a new personality."
Audiences can expect costumes which push boundaries, their creativity enhanced by storytelling, dance, visual effects and the real women wearing them.