Alumna Marlene Olson Hamm ’05 Talks about Designing Costumes for NYC Ballet

Marlene Olson Hamm ’05 shared about her career designing costumes for the NYC Ballet with current students on Jan. 22.

In three weeks, the famed New York City Ballet will pull back the curtain on its latest performance: The Sleeping Beauty.  Before this can happen, however, PhilaU fashion design alumna Marlene Olson Hamm ’05 must ensure that all 175 women’s costumes are ready for the spotlight.

Olson Hamm returned to campus Jan. 22 as part of Philadelphia University’s Fashion Alumni Lecture Series, at which she spoke to enthusiastic fashion design students about her career as assistant wardrobe mistress for New York City Ballet, one of the world’s premier ballet companies.

From making mid-show repairs to replacing entire wardrobes, Olson Hamm’s job is to make sure the costumes look flawless from the moment the curtains open to the moment the dancers take their final bow.

“This job has kept me learning and growing,” she told the students, reminding them of the importance of following one’s passions.  “My friends tell me they can’t remember the last time they got to use a sewing machine. I used one this Sunday.”

Olson Hamm also noted that her PhilaU education has helped her succeed in her profession. “I love the creative process, which is something I’ve learned here,” she said.  “PhilaU taught me to think outside the box.”

After graduating in 2005 with a B.S. in fashion design, she worked at a number of different fashion studios, gaining experience and practicing her craft. After a year, she moved to New York to work at Timberlake Studios and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, and, in 2007, she joined the New York City Ballet as assistant wardrobe mistress. Olson Hamm’s responsibilities include preparing for all seasonal performances, including the holiday classic The Nutcracker at New York’s Lincoln Center, as well as for national and international tours.

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