Iconic fashion designers not only brought fashion into ballet, but also “took” some ballet into fashion. We’d like to tell you what elements of the ballet costumes designers turned into fashion trends.
Oriental style in costumes by Bakst
Social life of Europe at the beginning of the 20th century was closely connected with Diaghilev’s "Russian Seasons". Back then, Russian ballet changed the outlook not only on art, but also on the trends of the fashion world. The main designer of these productions was Léon Bakst. Reserved Parisians were amazed by his flamboyant and colorful design of the performances and costumes made in the styles of "decorative impressionism" and "oriental eroticism", combining elements of traditional Russian culture, of the Orient and Ancient Greece. Quilted jackets, turbans, wide trousers, tunics, beads, transparency and extravagant colors in combinations of fabrics and national ornaments came into fashion thanks to Bakst. Ideas of the theatrical designer were used by fashionable tailors, mainly by Paul Poiret, and then got into the mass fashion. Europe had never worn such clothes before, but at that time European fashionistas were brighter than ever. Since then, "a la russe" and other national styles have often become the theme of fashion shows, for example, by Gucci and Valentino. Léon Bakst's costumes served as the basis for the Russian Seasons collection by Yves Saint Laurent in 1976, the Egyptian collection by Christian Dior in 2004, Dolce & Gabbana’s collection in 2013, etc.
Tulle skirts had become an evening fashion element quite often, but a really great excitement for a ballet tutu started in 1998, when the TV series Sex and the City was released. Its main character Carrie Bradshaw wore a tutu in the opening credits and this airy clothing item was often used in her looks throughout the show. In 2010, after release of the Black Swan movie, the trend returned and stayed for several years. In 2013, a tutu becomes the centerpiece of many collections: Betsey Johnson creates dresses with short puffy tulle skirts and Jason Wu complements a tutu with a leather belt and suspenders. In 2018, daring punk tutus were created by Moschino, Saint Laurent and Balmain. The 2019 spring/summer season saw a trend for pastel weightless “chopin” tutus, for example, in collections by Dior and designer Maria Grazia Chiuri. The trend comes back so often that it seems that it is never out of style - in the 2021 collections, tutus are in the spotlight again.
Bodysuits resemble ballerinas' rehearsal leotards, although, for example, choreographer George Balanchine used them as costumes in his productions. A combination of this laconic top with delicate translucent skirts has become classic not only for the ballet stage, but also for the catwalk. However, the fashion world expected that this piece of clothing could be completely self-sufficient - in 1943, Harper's Bazaar called bodysuit "a new idea, leading toward the twenty-first century and the futuristic costumes of a superwoman". Today, "superwomen" still rarely wear bodysuits without a bottom, but they often combine them with such casual clothes as jeans or shorts.
The first fan of ballet footwear was Napoleon's wife Joséphine de Beauharnais - she often wore satin flat shoes. At the end of the 19th century, Salvatore Capezio, a shoemaker who specialized in dance shoes, created their everyday version in the image and likeness of ballet shoes. In 1941, after the show by designer Claire McCardell, Capezio ballerinas were adopted and loved by the fashion world; in 1949, comfortable flat shoes appeared on the cover of Vogue. In the 1950s, Brigitte Bardot wore red ballerinas by Rose Repetto in the film And God Created Woman, and Audrey Hepburn wore them in Funny Face. By the way, the latter adored such shoes and wore them very often. Since then, ballerinas have appeared in almost every shoe collection, in both evening and sports versions.
Shoes with ribbons or ankle ties
We separated this trend from ballerinas on purpose. Firstly, because this accessory is more inherent in pointe shoes rather than ballet shoes. And secondly, because designers use ribbon decor and ties not only with closed-toe flat shoes, but also with many other models, for example sandals and stiletto heels. Shoes with ribbons on the instep or ties on the ankle look very feminine, but, as in the case of pointe shoes, the process of putting them on is slow. Almost any shoe brand creates such shoes for their spring/summer collections from time to time.