Frank Krenz, the Rockettes’ current designer, claims to be influenced by the New York and European fashion shows, although a walk through the Radio City wardrobe racks indicates a cryptic connection at best. Many of the designs—some of which stay in circulation for decades—are obvious period pieces jazzed up with considerable flash. One spangly blue Erté number was designed not at the height of the famed designer-illustrator’s career but toward its end, in 1990, when the glitzed-out, cheesy Eighties still reigned. Indeed, Krenz, whose notable contributions include a new outfit replete with 3,000 rhinestones for this year’s show, says a good costume is “attractive, sexy, danceable,” and should “pop.” And nowadays, the design has to accommodate increasingly complicated dance moves and, this season, harnesses necessary for the anniversary-inspired “flying” effects.
Still, regardless of construction, it’s all about the sparkle. Wardrobe supervisor Barbara Van Zandt maintains that black, white, red and what she calls “pure” colors—those that catch the light—work best. Case in point, the costumes Mackie, who knows a thing or two about optic stimulation, designed for two numbers in 1979. “I did a black and silver one that was very graphic,” he says. “Each time they made a movement, it created a different picture. Of course, it has the most impact because it’s repeated on 36 girls.”
Mackie’s right. There’s something about synchronized motion and elaborate costumes that keeps people, Kors included, coming back. “They were the first glamazons I ever saw. It’s all about the height, the synchronicity and the perfection of it all,” the designer says. “I wouldn’t want to see très modern, fashiony Rockettes. I want the glitter, I want the glamour, and I want the legs."