Yuka Silvera, a Fictive Outfitter

The magic in Yuka Silvera’s costumes
From her office and sewing room in her house in East Hampton, Yuka Silvera concocts “Nutcracker” costumes suitable for a harlequin doll and a fairy snow queen, and others for Eliza Doolittle’s transformation from street merchant to drawing room lady. She is pictured with her Hampton Ballet Theatre designs. Below, four clothing changes for Eliza. Durell Godfrey and Yuka Silvera Photos

Last summer, Yuka Silvera found herself seated next to Tony Walton in a theater in Dexter, Mich., watching “My Fair Lady.” It was opening night. “Every time Eliza came out,” she said, “he would poke me.”

It was a good thing he did, because otherwise she might have assumed she was dreaming. Mr. Walton, who is an award-winning costume and set designer for theater and film, in addition to his directing credits, had tapped Ms. Silvera to design the costumes Eliza Doolittle wore in his production of the musical at the Encore Musical Theatre Company.

Mr. Walton’s first wife, Julie Andrews, played Eliza in the original Broadway and London runs of the classic, which dates to 1956. Cecil Beaton, a legendary designer, conceived the original costumes. Talk about a tough act to follow.

With a next-to-nothing budget, she whipped up a collection of dresses to help externally transform Eliza, the daughter of a dustman (British for garbage collector), into the swan she was developing into under the tutelage of Henry Higgins.

Those who attend this weekend’s performances of the Hampton Ballet Theatre School’s production of “The Nutcracker” will no doubt be swept away by the dancing, but also by the magic in Ms. Silvera’s costumes. 

She has been casting her design spells on Sara Jo Strickland’s young dancers since the company’s first performance of the popular Christmastime entertainment in 2008. Since then, she has expanded the company’s costumes to accommodate the growing number of students and has branched out into theater, opera, and film costume design. But everything that followed came from the exposure she had there. 

The company started with about 25 students and has since grown to 100. It has grown so much that Ms. Silvera needed to delegate a good portion of the sewing to an assistant and a professional seamstress so she could work on all of the new designs needed for an expanding cast. 

“The night before a dress rehearsal, I used to sew while sleeping,” she said with a laugh. “Now, no more.” She also designs hats for the characters.

Because she and Ms. Strickland share a similar aesthetic — “She is not about the cutie-cutie,” Ms. Silvera said — she is given free rein to design what she wants.

“I’m very fashion-forward; I like to add something new to these designs.” She incorporated ideas from Alexander McQueen’s Victorian collection into a tutu for “The Nutcracker.” And, she and Ms. Strickland both like a vintage color scheme. “There’s a lot of red in the costumes, but the colors are mostly faded.”

Over the years, the two have worked on other ballets, including “Cinderella,” “Peter and the Wolf,” “Les Sylphides,” and “The Littlest Mermaid.” In 2010, Ms. Silvera began to be noticed by the South Fork’s theatrical community. New assignments and productions came with the attention. 

Through Emma Walton Hamilton, she became the costumer for the Young Artists and Writers Project’s spring and winter shows at Stony Brook Southampton. Kate Mueth began using her designs in productions such as “The Mystery of Irma Vep” and “The Allergist’s Wife” at Mulford Farm in East Hampton and in “Eve” and “Zima.”

Soon, she was designing for Stephen Hamilton, Ms. Hamilton’s husband, who often directs an intimately staged play at Guild Hall in the spring. “Uncle Vanya” in 2012 was the first of such productions, and it featured Ms. Silvera’s work. By 2013, she was the designer for Guild Hall’s summer production of “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” having worked previous seasons as an assistant to the costume designer of the venue’s productions of “LUV” and “Tonight at 8:30.”

Mr. Walton, who is Ms. Hamilton’s father, became familiar with her work through these efforts. In a career dating back to 1957 in costume design, set design, and art direction for theater and film, Mr. Walton has won several Tony Awards for set design and an Oscar and an Emmy Award as well.

Working with him and designing for the opera “Acis and Galatea” are high points for her, Ms. Silvera said. Mr. Hamilton directed that production, which was staged in Tannersville, N.Y., in 2015. She put together the wardrobe for the regular characters as well as the costumes for the Greek statues that came to life.

Although she had a background in fashion, Ms. Silvera had not really designed professionally until she came here. She studied costume design in her native Japan and worked as a pattern maker for five years before relocating to Santa Barbara, Calif., to study English. In New York, she took classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked at Yumi Katsura, a high-end bridal design house from Japan. 

“I always liked costume design . . . but I was not confident enough to start anything,” she said. “I was worried about my English, and I didn’t know anybody.”

After she married Todd Silvera and they had a daughter, the family moved to the South Fork, and Mr. Silvera opened Aventura Motors, a vintage car sales and restoration business in South­ampton. At the age of 4, their daughter began taking ballet classes with Miss Sara, as Ms. Silvera calls her. 

Although she is no longer dancing, her daughter’s initial interest in dance is still paying dividends in Ms. Silvera’s design career. She was able to join the United Scenic Artists union a few years ago. Now she has wardrobe design credits for two films — “Good Bones,” from 2014, and “Beach House,” which was filmed on the South Fork last year and is in postproduction. She is in discussions for another film, but did not want to share details. “A film a year, I would like that,” she said.

Attempting to recreate the work of Beaton with no budget led to some creative solutions for “My Fair Lady.” Ms. Silvera recycled dresses she kept from previous productions such as “Uncle Vanya” and bought inexpensive dresses from China as a base on which to add more luxurious fabric. As a pattern maker, she said, she likes to come up with designs “from scratch, but this was different.” 

Mr. Walton appreciated the effort and the designs. 

“When I first came to New York, I bought a book about costume designers, and Tony was one of those interviewed,” she said. “I remember thinking, ‘This is so far away, how do I get to there?’ Then, I’m sitting next to one of the greatest costume designers in the world and he’s thanking me for helping him. It was thrilling.”

“The Nutcracker” will be presented at Guild Hall tomorrow at 7 p.m., Saturday at 1 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Advance tickets through the dance school’s website are $25, $20 for children. Tickets purchased on the day of the show will cost $5 more. Premium tickets and group sales are available.