By the time Marina Toybina was 16, she was already booking seamstresses to bring her early fashion designs to life; she remembers doing a photo shoot of her first design, a purple dress, with a friend. The Moscow-born designer, who was raised in Phoenix, later enrolled in Los Angeles’ Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and started working with stylists whom she met on Myspace.
Her interest in couture led to costuming — influenced by Tim Burton and the 2000 sci-fi film The Cell — and since 2010 Toybina has been booked solid: She has done stage design for artists like Britney Spears, costume design for The X Factor, her first TV job; Katy Perry’s 2015 Super Bowl halftime show (she designed the internet-famous “Left Shark”); and P!nk’s Beautiful Trauma World Tour in 2018, which included oversized masks that Toybina had to carve out of foam.
Two months after P!nk’s tour wrapped, she was enlisted by Fox’s The Masked Singer to design the elaborate costumes that conceal the identities of the celebrity contestants. “All of my experiences got me [here],” says Toybina. “This show was the perfect opportunity to marry my 20 years of experience.”
Toybina’s team of 30 sketches about that many looks per season, each of which takes up to three months to design and create. As casting begins, Toybina sends contestants sketches to choose from. “From there, the craziness [begins],” she says of the final month of work she spends completing each disguise. During filming, she stands sidestage watching for any wardrobe malfunctions, “not breathing.” Season two is now airing; season three, which she’s already planning, will air next spring. This season, she says, Leopard (above) and Ladybug are her favorites.
Toybina and Underwood (above) have worked together since the singer’s 2012 Blown Away Tour. Now, Toybina not only creates the country star’s onstage wardrobe but also styles her for public appearances. The goal was to make Underwood’s look consistent, and from the experience, Toybina learned how to forecast trends and collaborate with other designers. For Underwood’s 2019 Cry Pretty Tour 360, Toybina went for an edgier rock aesthetic while honoring Underwood’s country side. “Finding these new avenues for her is where my skill comes in,” says Toybina. “It creates this constant evolution.”
For the dance show executive-produced by Jennifer Lopez (above), which NBC renewed for a fourth season, Toybina held upward of a hundred fittings a day with contestants, ranging from preteens to adults, and across styles from ballroom to hip-hop. But still, providing a variety of looks, while aiming to accurately present each style of dance, often demanded 18-hour workdays, seven days a week. She says the judges — Lopez, Ne-Yo and Derek Hough – offer input on costuming, with generally positive feedback. “That’s what’s so [exciting] about these shows — we really don’t stop.”