In the words of famed NYC photographer Bill Cunningham, “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life” … except for when it’s the portal to escape. Enter Teale Dvornik, a dresser at Wicked who has become a fashion plate in her own right as the force behind The Backstage Blonde. With an infectious love of pink leopard-print and over 22K Instagram followers, Teale has done the near-impossible and become an influencer who actually stands for something. We caught up with her to find out how she landed in Oz, the keys to being a good dresser, and why her own style doesn’t include sequins.
Unlike many Broadway professionals, Teale’s first love wasn’t theater… or even fashion. It was film. “I come from a family of movie buffs who treat the Oscars like the Super Bowl,” she revealed. “They exposed me heavily to the arts and Broadway, but I didn’t fall in love with live theater until college.” And even then, it occurred somewhat by chance. Her freshman year, she majored in Fashion Design with her eyes set on being a celebrity stylist, but her sophomore year she transferred to a school that didn’t have that major, forcing her to switch to the next-closest thing, which happened to be Costume Design and Technical Theater. “During my first month at my new university, I was a dresser and stitcher for the play Richard III and I fell deeply in love with the magic of live theater! From that moment on, living in NYC and working in wardrobe on Broadway was my ultimate goal,” she recalled. Spoiler alert: She didn’t start at the finish line on that one.
She started as a costume designer in the Catskills at Stagedoor Manor and then spent two years working as a wardrobe supervisor aboard cruise ships, a time period that Teale describes as “intense.” Yeah, we can imagine. “You can’t apply to work at Wicked; you have to be invited,” she explained. Fortunately, after getting her sea legs, Teale received the invitation she had been hoping for, and she joined the hit musical’s wardrobe crew in January 2015. Since then, the Florida-transplant has worked on Aladdin, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, On the Town, The Prom, The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and backstage at a variety of New York Fashion Week shows every single season. But what does a dresser do exactly?
“Dressers have many responsibilities, but the main two are 1) to keep the costumes organized, and 2) to properly and swiftly change the actors so they make their entrances on time,” Teale explained. “I dress the Female Ensemble at Wicked and arrive at the theater two hours before the start time to pre-set the show. During the show, I keep my girls’ costumes organized, occasionally do repairs, set the costumes out, quick-change the actresses and then put away the discarded costumes when everyone goes back on stage.” As a point of reference, Teale’s quickest costume change for Wicked has to be completed in 15 seconds – yes, seconds.
Teale notes, however, there’s more to being a great dresser than… you know… dressing people. “You have to be able to anticipate the actors’ needs ahead of time and know how to read a dressing room. I am there to help the actors do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Sometimes that means getting them water. Other times it means making them laugh.” In other words, she is a one-woman pit crew for triple-threats.
And now she’s offering that same type of girl-power-cheerleading to all via her own brand, The Backstage Blonde. Launched in 2017, The Backstage Blonde is one part lifestyle blog (where Teale covers topics like her go-to tanning lotion, her recent move to Hell’s Kitchen, and her boyfriend meeting her parents) and one part fashion hub (complete with eye-candy pics and its own theater-themed merch shop). Teale admits having a demanding day-job while building a business on the side has been a challenge, but credits solid time-management skills and a stellar team for keeping the ship on course. Kaleigh Steinorth Iben, Teale’s close friend and former roommate, is her manager and has helped nurture The Backstage Blonde from the beginning. “One of the best pieces of business advice I’ve been given is to surround yourself with a team of people who are smarter than you!” Teale quipped.
As for how her personal style has been influenced by working on the Great White Way, Teale didn’t miss a beat: She’s become an athleisure enthusiast. “At work, I’m running up and down stairs, squatting down, carrying baskets and pushing heavy racks, so my clothing has to be functional and comfortable. My almost-always-black uniform consists of leggings, an oversized t-shirt, or a full sweatsuit.” We think Bill Cunningham would approve.
A version of this story first appeared in W42St magazine. Sign up for their weekly newsletter here!