VIDEO: See Theater alum's award-winning "Dancing With the Stars" costumes in action!

Amanda Wolff
Amanda Wolff with the winning drawings

Amanda Wolff figured she’d never manage to squeeze in the time to enter a Dancing With the Stars costume contest.

Sure, Wolff is a “hardcore” fan of the flashy ABC dance competition show, mostly because she adores the glitzy costumes; but she was swamped with work as an apprentice at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre, prepping costumes for their current production of The King and I. The 2011 grad of the Mason Gross Theater Design program had just two frenetic days to research, sketch and submit her costume designs to the Dancing With the Stars judges. There was no way she could make it work.

Fortunately, Wolff listened to her mother, an avid Dancing With the Stars fan who nudged her daughter to do double duty.

“My mom said, ‘What do you have to lose?’ ” recalls Wolff, 22, of Dresher, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia. “I’m glad I did.”

In early November, Wolff learned that her designs had won and would appear on the Nov. 15 episode of Dancing With the Stars. A pair of dancers will wear the punk-inspired costumes as they perform the paso doble to Lady Gaga’s hit song Bad Romance. Wolff is headed to Los Angeles for the taping—and she’s bringing along her mom for the adventure.

Wolff says she designed the looks with the understanding that Dancing With the Stars “is definitely a family show, so I knew the costume couldn’t be too crazy, too out there, too scandalous, something the public wouldn’t understand.” Wolff says she isn’t certain if she will appear on the show or if she will just observe the taping; either way, she’s thrilled.

“It’s very exciting and very overwhelming,” says Wolff, who has been caught up in a minor media storm since learning of the win.

Wolff says her mom taught her to sew when she was just 6 or 7. Wolff often made her own clothes—“awful dresses,” as she calls them—and studied painting and sculpture throughout high school. The Design program at the Mason Gross School “connected that love of arts and sewing,” she says. “My mom taught me the basics. Rutgers taught me the technical skill.”

Wolff says the Theater program also furthered her goal of not “sitting behind a computer all day. That’s not for me . . . They taught me not to be afraid, not to hold back.”

Wolff hasn’t done much time behind a computer: While in the BFA Theater Design program, she interned on the CBS drama The Good Wife alongside Mason Gross Theater alum Daniel Lawson, the show’s costume designer. She says she is game to work behind the scenes of live shows or for television.

“I am open to anything,” Wolff says. “I want to see where this [win] takes me. As long as I’m doing some aspect of costume design, I’m happy.”

Right now, she is definitely happy—and stunned.

“I was watching Dancing With the Stars this week and thinking, ‘Next week [the costumes] will be mine,’ ” Wolff says. “I can’t believe this happened.”

Update: See Wolff and her award-winning costumes in action as Anna and Derek perform on the Nov. 15, 2011, episode of Dancing With the Stars.

Posted November 2011