x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Primping Perry: behind the scenes at Katy Perry's Dubai concert

Katy Perry wears a costume just once, then mothballs it or sells it for charity. So what does it look like behind the scenes at a Perry performance?

Katy Perry performs in a comic-strip-inspired one piece at the closing ceremony of the World Parachuting Championships Mondial at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. Razan Alzayani / The National
Katy Perry performs in a comic-strip-inspired one piece at the closing ceremony of the World Parachuting Championships Mondial at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. Razan Alzayani / The National

Two travelling wardrobes stand upright in one corner, bursting with shiny, spangly things. Two clothes rails are lined with shirts, jackets, trousers and skirts in red, yellow, blue, green and orange. On a table against the wall lie four bright yellow wigs, waiting to be brushed. Against the opposite wall is another table, strewn with stick-on crystals in various colours, ready to bedazzle. A pair of bright blue trainers have already undergone a marvellous transformation: blue glitter and crystals ensure that no one will mistake the ownership of this footwear - it cannot belong to anyone other than the most flamboyant of performers.

From her bright blue wigs to her bright pink, billowing skirts to her acid-green eyeshadow, there is nothing understated about Katy Perry or the items in her dressing room when I saw it on Saturday, before her performance alongside Usher for the closing ceremony of the World Parachuting Championships Mondial 2012.

Perry never repeats a costume on stage. All her outfits are then archived or sometimes sold for charity. Hot on the heels of a show in Milwaukee, Perry had not had a chance to try out her costumes for the Mondial performance.

Enter Dubai's resident costume expert (me), who was summoned along with her sewing machine to make sure everything fit like a glove.

Sporting an Access All Areas badge, I walked past rooms that made me want to pinch myself: Usher Dancers, Usher Dressing Room, Katy Perry Dancers. I finally reached Katy Perry Wardrobe: a suite filled with colourful, shiny things where I would spend the rest of the day hunched over my sewing machine, steaming and ironing, measuring and altering.

Chute on sight

Perry was not to arrive until about 3pm, so I set about doing whatever could be done for the dancers' outfits before I started on her stuff. Missing buttons, errant seams and wayward wrinkles all had to be banished. Ready for a break after I had dealt with the majority of the outfits, I stepped outside to the gallery overlooking the concert arena. There were two huge cranes on either side.

"What are those for?" I asked someone standing next to me.

"Oh, those are for the parachute," he shrugged.

Parachute? Turns out, Perry was to make a grand entry by zip-lining onto the stage in a pretend parachute - what with it being the closing ceremony for the World Parachuting Championships and all. Nice touch. At that moment, they seemed to be testing the parachute with deadweights, but weren't sure how it would handle an actual person.

I volunteered to give it a go, but was turned down. I went inside to fix some more seams and when I came back out half an hour later, there was an actual person ziplining down.

"Oh, you found someone!" I said to the same gentleman. "That's Katy Perry," he said with a raised eyebrow.

Costume crisis

"We have to fix this!" insisted Perry as she posed in front of a full-length mirror in one of her costumes.

The outfit was a bizarre comic-strip-inspired one-piece - a strapless top coupled with hot pants, designed to look like there were two parachutes sitting atop her shoulders, complete with plenty of glitter and crystals.

The problem was an extra seam in the hot pants, which was not to Perry's liking. Putting an extra seam into a one-piece outfit is easy: you just cut and re-stitch. But taking away a seam is slightly more complicated.

After a bit of humming and hawing we came up with a solution. Out came my sewing machine and a spare costume. I located an area on the spare that I could cut out and replace on the actual costume. Twenty minutes later, the seam was replaced.

On with the show

All buttons and seams finally in place by 7pm, I packed up my kit and bade farewell to Perry-land, where rings are shaped like rainbow-coloured hearts and neon-blue tights are the norm. She settled into her make-up chair, ready for the warpaint. My work had ended, but hers had just begun.