Theaterkunst Talk

Christoph Birkner

The Austrian costume designer Christoph Birkner has been doing costumes for cinema, TV and theater for nearly 25 years now. He’s a regular at Theaterkunst, where he often comes to outfit his productions. In addition to various fairy tales (including “Der starke Hans” and “Die drei Federn”) he’s frequently responsible for the costume design of the TV production “The Dead of Salzburg”.
On December 25th 2023, we can look forward to watching this year’s ARD Christmas fairy tale “Sechs auf einen Streich – Die verkaufte Prinzessin”. For this production, Christoph and his team spent a lot of time in our historical costume hall, where he found a wide array of costumes for characters ranging from the villain to the guards to the princess.

© BR/TV60Filmproduktion GmbH / Martin Rattini


Christoph Birkner

The fairy tale “Die verkaufte Prinzessin” is not your classic fairy tale adaptation, but instead makes use of modern elements. Princess Melisa (Judith Neumann), for example, pretends to be a man. How did you and your team approach the topic?

Judith plays a young woman who disguises herself as a man and sets out to work in her grandfather’s mine. Along the way, she foils the kidnapping of Princess Sophie (Kristin Alia Hunold).

But to answer your question: We had to create a costume that allowed for a quick visual switch between the two figures. We decided on a reversible vest that was, on the one hand, a floral, laced body (Melissa), and on the other a leather gilet with a fold-out shawl collar (Mathis). We converted an existing wool skirt so that it could also be used as a cape, making it possible to transform it on camera.

The brothers Ingolf and Rudolf are played by Pasquale Aleardi in a double role. What does the costume department have to take into consideration when two characters are portrayed by the same person?

Here we decided on a doublet for the role of the king, which visually enhanced the character’s corpulence and in doing do also underlined his stiffness, because he also embodies an ailing, weak person, in contrast to the very vibrant brother.

Do you see a difference between costume design work in Austria and in Germany? How much visibility does the costume design trade have in Austria?

I don’t see any major differences. In Austria, everything is concentrated in Vienna, which in my mind means that we’re more interconnected, also thanks to our own WhatsApp group, set up by costume designer Veronika Albert. At some point you always run into each other. We’re also very well represented by the VÖF (Association of Austrian Filmdesigners).

Do you feel that the concept of sustainability in costume design has changed in recent years?

Yes, I do. These days, sustainability is more important than ever. Increasingly, you see producers and broadcasters insisting on it – and rightfully so. Whenever possible, we should work in a sustainable way.

What do you appreciate about a costume collection like that of Theaterkunst?

Here at TK, you really feel the passion for costumes, and it extends from the diverse range of the costumes to the way costumes are taken care of, the expertise and dedication of the staff, the workshop and, above all, the respect that you get here, no matter how big or small a production may be.

Thanks for the interview and see you soon!

See you!