“Let’s invite all the models back for our grand finale!”
As the petite announcer addressed the crowd, the women in the fashion show scrambled to get back onstage as another successful Parade of Costumes came to a close.
The lavish show stitches together fashion, history and fun into a grandiose presentation for local audiences. Spearheaded by artist and former dancer Kristina Steinke, the program is a colorful display of her outfits worn decades ago when she tapped and paraded all over Europe and the United States as a performer with various traveling shows.
Steinke reminds you of your favorite aunt with her warm demeanor and a mischievous gleam in her eyes. You’d never guess she’s danced at the Vienna location of the Moulin Rouge in Austria or that she’s worked closely with famed costumers. Hedy Jo Starr, who created costumes for the “Jubilee!” show at Bally’s Las Vegas, designed “The Mermaid,” “The Cowgirl” and “The Fan Dance” outfits for Steinke.
The New York City-born performer says seeing her former dance costumes onstage again takes her back in time.
“It’s the most fantastic feeling to see my wardrobe pass in front of me as I’ve never seen it before,” she said. “It’s like I relive my career. It’s a treasure to experience.”
Steinke’s passion for bringing her costumes back in glittering display also raises money for local charities.
Her inaugural Parade of Costumes was held at the First United Methodist Church benefitting PEO for women’s education. Her contribution to the Festival of the Baskets at the historical Bakersfield Women’s Club raised funds for the organization’s various charities.
For her latest show, Steinke teamed up with seamstress Brenda Greenfield to recreate a special scarlet boa-strewn gown called “The Mae West.” The original had become fragile over the years. Greenfield says Steinke’s costumes are rare and extraordinary.
“We collaborate very well,” Greenfield said. “To see something in this vibrant color, it’s a blast to work on.”
Sixteen women showcased the one-of-a-kind outfits at Shafter Veterans Hall last month to a sold-out crowd. Each Parade of Costumes raises thousands of dollars for worthwhile causes in Kern County.
Steinke, who credits God for her artistic gifts, is also a respected artist with local masterworks, including a 17-foot mural at the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame and four large paintings at Sorella Ristorante Italiano.
Her art and shows aim to delight, enthrall and captivate her audience.
“I just want to entertain them, and I hope they’re entertained as they enjoy the smorgasbord of color and jewels and feathers,” Steinke said.
Like her costumes, history and life, Steinke is one of a kind. And, for me, her creative vision is one of the best things about Bakersfield. ￼
Opinions expressed in this column are those of Nina Ha.