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Creative Careers: Mikhaila Pye

Mikhaila Pye, Senior Wardrobe Manager

Senior Wardrobe Manager Mikhaila Pye has worked in Northern Ballet’s Wardrobe team for over 20 years. She told us more about her career. 

When did you start working for Northern Ballet? What job did you do? 

I started at Northern Ballet in 1999 as Wardrobe Assistant on tour, working with the Wardrobe Manager and Deputy Wardrobe Manager to do things like the laundry and helping the dancers change into their costumes. Then around 2016 I stopped going out on tour because Northern Ballet’s touring schedule got much bigger and we needed the support at our base in Leeds. 

What does your role involve now? 

Along with the Head of Wardrobe, I get the shows ready for the next season. This involves ordering samples and fabrics for new costumes, pulling old costumes out of storage and buying in shoes for the dancers. We’re always thinking one or two seasons ahead! There are a lot of logistics and spreadsheets in my current role, which does sometimes surprise people. This is mainly to help with budgeting and making sure we have enough pairs of ballet shoes. 

What qualifications did you take? 

I did a Business & Environmental Studies degree at university, which has actually come in helpful years and years after I did it. It gave me a working knowledge of budgets and taught me how to use a spreadsheet. I chose the degree as I knew it would give me these transferable skills, but I was already working in theatre and knew that’s where my passion was. 

What sort of roles did you do at the beginning of your career? 

I started out as a Dresser at a local theatre, helping the performers in every show that came in with their costumes at the beginning of the show and during quick changes. It also involved doing the washing and ironing between shows. Then I moved up, into the role I’m in now. 

What skills are required to do a job like yours? 

In my role at Northern Ballet, you do need some basic sewing ability like sewing a button on or doing a hem. I also break down costumes, which is when you use dyes and other processes to make costumes look older, and therefore more authentic. This is quite different to other organisations, who would usually have a separate person or team to do this work. One of the good things about Northern Ballet is that you can get on the job training, so I went on a course to help me with some of these skills. You don’t have to be Coco Chanel or Alexander McQueen to do my role. 

I’m not a maker, we have people who come in and make the costumes. So, if you think ‘Oh, I could never make a corset’ that doesn’t mean you can’t work in wardrobe. There is a wide range of jobs if you are interested in wardrobe and costume. 

What is the best part of your job? 

What I love about working at Northern Ballet is that every day is different, you could be working on budgets one day, or on set supporting a filming project the other. As long as you’re the type of person who doesn’t get fazed and you’re ‘up for it’ then it’s a great thing to do. It’s a very rewarding job when you see the costumes on stage and I love that you get to work with a lot of different people.