Marianna Totaro, a rising star in costume design

Marianna Totaro is a highly gifted 21-year-old taking the world of costume design by storm. Totaro is a student at the Fashion Design program at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, which has given her the opportunity to gain a unique perspective in her field of costume design.

Totaro grew up in Ridgewood, New Jersey in a family of artists and participated in Armenian folk dance, ballet and music from a young age. She has a strong passion for dance, especially Armenian dance, having danced for the Shushi Armenian Dance Ensemble of New Jersey since she was five. 

“My mom was a student of classical ballet in Lebanon before the war and wanted me to get a taste of the elegance, fine class of music, the poise and the experience,” Totaro shared.

“When my dance group and I went to Armenia in 2008, I watched my sister perform in the Armenian National Opera and Ballet Theater. We traveled to the Middle East again in 2010 and performed in Lebanon and had the opportunity to perform in Argentina and Uruguay in 2012. We went to Russia in 2015 and then went back to Armenia, and I performed with my sister on stage in the same theater seven years later. That was very special to me, because that’s where it all started with my first trip with an amazing dance group,” she continued.

Totaro on stage

Totaro knew when she enrolled at Moore that she wanted to be a costume designer, but working on a project with the Philadelphia Ballet solidified her interest and brought her closer to her dream than she had ever thought possible. Moore’s fashion design program collaborated with Philadelphia Ballet to provide this hands-on learning experience for junior students, working directly with the Ballet’s wardrobe team to learn the unique craft.

“It was Nutcracker inspired. We had to make four illustrations based on the roles of the Land of the Sweets. We did Candy Cane, Tea, Coffee and Hot Chocolate. We spent three months working on the costumes for the company. Then they came to our school to perform,” Totaro said regarding the collaboration.

Moore’s relationship with the Philadelphia Ballet provides real-world opportunities for students to explore potential career paths and lay a foundation for their future success. Totaro got to work on a costume at every stage of the process, including design, fabrication, fittings and finally seeing the costumes on dancers during the performance.

Totaro at the Philadelphia Ballet opening night

Totaro has always had a passion for costume design. She has always had a keen eye for costumes, whether in ballet, Armenian dance or old movies. She gets her inspiration from the visual aesthetics of costumes and the elegance of old Hollywood movies she grew up watching with her grandmother, such as To Catch a Thief with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. 

“I want to be a costume designer incorporating Armenian clothing styles. Armenia and Armenian culture is beautiful. It’s so important for others to see our culture, its uniqueness and strength,” she reflected.

Totaro hopes to work in the entertainment and ballet industries as a costume designer. She would love to go to Europe and continue achieving her dreams. 

Our youth are truly inspiring and promoting our culture in every field. Totaro is on her journey of meshing her heritage with her art.

Talar Keoseyan

Talar Keoseyan

Talar Keoseyan is a mother, educator and writer.


  1. Hello hope all is well! This is amazing! Go Marianna, you are shining star! Congratulations!! Cheering you on!! :))

  2. My beautiful, amazing and talented goddaughter!! I am so very proud of all that you have accomplished thus far! You are indeed a shining star! You have a bright future ahead of you and I cannot wait to watch you shine 🤩 I will always be your number one fan!! ♥️

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