From Disney princesses to prom dates, Gianfranco DiPietro has designed dresses for some special leading ladies. For the Riverview senior, who most recently designed Belle’s ball gown for his high school’s spring production of “Beauty and the Beast,” that’s all in a day’s work.
DiPietro recently accepted the best costume nomination from the Gene Kelly Awards on behalf of his school. He attended a May 11 press conference where the nominees for the 2011 season were announced.
“It was really a big honor,” he said.
This year, Riverview was nominated for three Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater. They include nominations for best ensemble and best choreography, as well as the nod for best costume.
“I’m so happy we got nominated,” he said. “It was so much fun putting on this show.”
DiPietro not only designed the ball gown worn by Aubrey Welschcox in her role as Belle. He also played the villainous Gaston who attempted to court her in the Disney retelling of the fairy tale.
Being on the stage and also designing a costume to be worn on the stage gives DiPietro an interesting perspective. He said that knowing how much effort goes into a costume makes you appreciate it more.
“Once you get into them, you really get into your character,” he said.
DiPietro said it was in the second or third grade when he began sewing. By the sixth, he had his own sewing machine. And in eighth grade, he designed the dress for Glinda the Good Witch in Riverview’s production of “The Wizard of Oz”.
He created Belle’s gown this year as his senior project. And while the design had to be a creation all his own, DiPietro said he was entrusted with a very special task.
“Because this is "Beauty and the Beast," every child was going to expect it to look like Belle’s ball gown (from the Disney movie),” he said.
From the looks of it, the gown likely met—if not exceeded—even the most discriminating fan’s expectations.
And that’s not the only dress DiPietro designed to dazzle this spring. He also designed his girlfriend’s prom gown. While he started with something he had sketched out a year before, a '40s-inspired design, there was more—or you could say less—to the dress than that.
The silver-and-black floor length gown that Olivia DiYanni, also a Riverview senior, wore was designed so that the bottom would detach, leaving a short, sequined silver number.
The style was inspired by the Rave theme of Riverview’s prom and also the sparkle and shine of shows like “Dancing with the Stars,” according to DiPietro. It also allowed for more freedom of movement for dancing, which he thought would make sense at the prom.
“The fun part is putting it together and actually making it work,” he said.
And when it comes to making it work, DiPietro, who is busy with Key Club, Drama Club, Arts Club, Marching Band, Concert Band, Jazz Band and Dance Club, has a little help back home.
His mother Kelli, who he describes an “amazing seamstress,” helps to actually put the pieces together, sewing the dresses when DiPietro doesn’t have the time to.
Starting in the fall, he will study fashion design at Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio. He said he hopes to one day get a job designing women’s footwear.
DiPietro, who has been a part of Riverview shows for six years, taking on roles such as Pontius Pilate in “Jesus Christ Superstar” and Albert in "Bye Bye Birdie,” also hopes to stay involved in theater.
“It’s fun being on stage with your friends,” he said. “You make friends for life.”