Ballet and Fashion Through the Decades: Chapter 1

Ballet and Fashion Through the Decades: Chapter 1

A fashion collection is shown only once, but a performance can go on for years and tour the world. Although sometimes its success is associated with costumes by iconic designers. Grigory Kataev, a fashion historian, talks about such collaborations.

Gabrielle Chanel

The founder of the Chanel Fashion House was one of the first to gain benefits from cooperation with the art world. Not only did she patronize the Russian Seasons in Paris, which allowed her to acquire promising acquaintances, but she also took part in several productions by Sergei Diaghilev, which invariably collected full houses.

However, Chanel didn’t limit herself to costumes, but created a fashion collection for the Blue Express ballet dancers in 1924. According to the idea of the libretto author Jean Cocteau, the characters were young people - mostly athletes, swimmers and tennis players - spending time on the Cote d'Azur. By that time, "Mademoiselle" had already succeeded in making outfits for sports and resort leisure activities. The dancers were dressed in the fashion of the 1920s: in closed swimsuits with a low waist and striped knitwear, the looks of the girls were complemented by jewelry with imitation pearls and swimming caps.

The original name of the ballet - Le Train Bleu - referred to a real train with luxurious dark blue sleeping cars that ran between the north of France and the southern Riviera. Besides, it was the blue color that was a sign of fashion in the 1920s. Thanks in no small part to this, the color Bleu de Chanel has become one of the symbols of the Fashion House.

Yves Saint Laurent

For Yves Saint Laurent, fashion began with the theater. As a child, he used to make dolls, he invented outfits for them using rags and paper, built scenery and staged home performances. Later, the ability to draw and fantasize about dresses led Saint Laurent to success and collaboration with the outstanding French choreographer Roland Petit. Fascinated by the work of the abstract artist Piet Mondrian and the vogue of mini skirts, the designer created costumes for the 1965 Notre Dame de Paris ballet.

Large lacing on Esmeralda's dresses and Quasimodo's shirts is the only thing reminiscent of medieval times, when the events in Victor Hugo's novel unfold. Later, this fashion item moved into the famous safari style of Yves Saint Laurent. The colorful costumes and leotards of the corps de ballet symbolize the bright stained glass windows of Notre Dame cathedral. And the combination of local colors with black lines in the clothes of the main characters refers to the iconic Mondrian dress from the Yves Saint Laurent collection.

Gianni Versace

The name of Gianni Versace is associated with fashion for revealing dresses and tight outfits, abundance of gold and slits in clothes. The designer liked to use pop art graphics with characteristic vibrant colors, animal prints like leopard or zebra, as well as large baroque ornaments in his creations. As Versace used to say it himself:

“I don't believe in good taste.”

Nevertheless, he became one of the leading designers of the famous La Scala theater in Milan.

 The sensual and provocative style of Versace appealed to innovative choreographer Maurice Béjart, with whom they collaborated in 1984 to create costumes for the Dionysus Suite ballet. Gianni Versace dressed the ancient Greek god in red baggy pants - one of his signature colors, leaving the dancer's athletic torso open. After that, Versace made stage costumes for Maurice Bejart’s productions almost every year; their creative union culminated in the ballet in memory of the designer Thanks, Gianni, With Love.

Christian Lacroix

He studied art history and could become an authoritative museum expert. In addition, he adored fair performances and cinema from childhood. But interest in fashion turned out to be stronger, and the world recognized the great couturier - the Christian Lacroix Fashion House was founded in 1987. In the same year, Christian Lacroix became the first guest designer to create costumes for The Tarnished Angels ballet at the Grand Opera in Paris.

 The daring choreography by Karole Armitage, who is called a punk ballerina, was complemented by short dresses with lush tutus of bright colors. In fashion, the 1980s was a time of bold colors and rich shades such as fuchsia, canary yellow or ultraviolet. And the style by Christian Lacroix means pure maximalism with voluminous forms, an abundance of details and a wealth of jewelry. Having an excellent knowledge of the history of fashion, the couturier was inspired by the beauties from the paintings of the past centuries, whose outfits he easily adapted and transferred to the runway or the theater stage.

Today, Christian Lacroix presides over the National Center for Stage Costumes of France and continues to design costumes for the Paris National Opera.