The iconic “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” number in the Christmas Spectacular is a stunning display of precision and clever choreography and has been a fan favorite since the show’s inception. But it’s not just the number that’s full of rich history.
Vincente Minnelli, who was one of the first costume and set designers for the show, designed the iconic “Wooden Soldier” costume that debuted in 1933. Modeled after a porcelain doll, the overall costume design—which takes about 12 hours to make—has remained nearly unchanged (the trousers used to be starched!), and is specifically crafted and sized for the individual Rockette.
Although these costumes are breathtaking to behold, their intricate construction doesn’t allow the Rockettes much freedom of movement. The feathered hats are nearly three feet tall, while the trousers—which were and still are constructed much like a 4-sided box—have a thin lining of foam so they can stand independently. The trousers also go out for cleaning after every 3-6 performances to keep them looking crisp and clean while the Rockettes go through over 15,000 red dots per season to brighten their cheeks during the number.