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With extended schedule, ballet costumiers busy this time of year

Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Characters from across the many worlds of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker swarm the stage at the end of The Pittsburgh Ballet Theater's version of the ballet as 'Ringmaster' Andrew Kaczmarek stands in the center on Thursday, December 11, 2012. The PBT's interpretation of the ballet includes over 200 costumes and around 1200 headpieces for the many roles throughout the show. First shown in Russia in 1892 to mixed reviews, 2012 marks the 220th anniversary of the holiday production across the globe.

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Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, 11:48 p.m.

She has dressed Cinderella and Peter Pan, even “the queen of the Nile.”

This time of the year, though, Janet Groom-Campbell is up to her neck in sugarplum fairies.

“With ‘Nutcracker,' it's sort of wonderful ... a constant friend,” said Groom-Campbell, 59, of Moon, in her 39th year with Pittsburgh Ballet Theater.

As costumier, she and her team of stitchers build all the costumes for the ballet company.

It can be a daunting task.

When they decided to make swans for the 2010 production of “Swan Lake,” they made 22 tutus. Each took a week.

From a backstage workshop, Groom-Campbell and her team built 110 of 215 costumes for “The Nutcracker.” Costumiers made the rest at shops in New York and Washington.

The ballet “Cleopatra” required 119 costumes, 44 wigs and 76 headpieces. Cleopatra herself made six costume changes.

“That was crazy. It was a joint production with the Boston Ballet and the Houston Ballet, and each of us took one-third,” said Groom-Campbell, who started working here in 1973 as a stitcher.

Her connections with quality suppliers — from Fort Pitt Leather, Uptown, to The Fabric Place in Mt. Lebanon, to Ullrich Shoe Repair, Downtown — helps the ballet touch a multitude of everyday people, said David Seals, communications director for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

“She's integrating ballet into unlikely communities,” Seals said.

Groom-Campbell can't guess how many costumes she has built over the years, but it's a far cry from the six in her first year.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or

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