Parade of the Wooden Soldiers
The costumes for the first Christmas show were designed by Vincente Minnelli, who was later married to Judy Garland. They include the one probably best associated with the Rockettes — the uniforms worn for the Parade of the Wooden Soliders number, which have been included in every Christmas show since the first one.
The original design featured wooden slats in the pant legs to maintain an unbending line. A highlight of the Rockettes show is when a toy cannon fires, knocking the dancers over slowly, like a row of dominos.
The costumes worn by the Rockettes often reflected the times and culture. With Europe at war, the dancers donned sailor suits for a show called “Country Club,” which debuted on July 4, 1940.
After the US entered the war, the Rockettes helped the effort by touring with the USO from 1942 to 1945.
No originals of this costume still existed. But a sketch of the sailor suit, which was designed by Marco Montedoro and Willa Van, helped the Rockettes recreate this look for the Christmas Spectacular.
The dancers were practically petite in the early years — from 5 feet, 2 inches to 5 feet, 7 inches in 1937. By 1949, the height requirement inched up to begin at 5 feet, 4 inches.
The race to the moon was on and the Rockettes paid tribute with this Space Age suit — recreated this year from an original sketch — during a show called “Star Bright,” which debuted on Dec. 2, 1965. The detailed suit comes with helmet, equipment belt and, uh, space pearls.
Radio City served as a movie theater for most of its history, and the Rockettes performed in stage shows before or after screenings. Ticket prices for the 1964 Christmas show ranged from just 99 cents to $2.75. By 1965, Radio City had hosted 200 million visitors.
The dancers had become taller by the 1960s. The minimum height requirement in 1960 was raised to 5 feet, 5 inches.