Fashion en Pointe
cialis serif;”>Roisin Sweeney assesses fashions involvement in ballet, and ballet’s influence on design.
Last week at Lincoln Centre, designer Valentino was the guest of honour at New York City Ballet’s annual Fall gala. The designer created the costumes for all three of the ballets preformed that night. The collaboration was first suggested by Sarah Jessica Parker, a friend of the designer and huge supporter of New York’s most prestigious ballet company. The most vital component of any ballet costume is the weight of the material, it must be free enough to allow the dancers to move, but weighty enough to create motion in the skirts. Valentino achieved this effect impeccably. During the final Ballet, the premier of Peter Martins ‘Bal de Couture’ the dancers leapt across the stage to reveal Valentino’s signature red underneath the layers of their white tulle skirts.
The Ballet Russe had a profound impact on the work of Coco Chanel at the start of the 20th century. Chanel designed costumes for several Ballet Russe productions, including ‘Le Train Bleu’ and ‘Apollon Musagete.’ Chanel’s transferral of her skills to the design of dance costumes was relatively simple for a woman who advocated loose and easy clothes. Chanel had a huge connection with the Ballet Russe company, emotionally as well as aesthetically; she had an affair with one of the most successful composers of the time, Igor Stravinsky. In 2009, Chanel’s current creative director Karl Lagerfeld designed a costume for ‘The Dying Swan,’ a show for the English National Ballet. He said, “Ballet is an extraordinary art: This torture of the body to make something so graceful. All this hard work – to look effortless.”
Paul Poiret, another designer who championed the looser, more relaxed look we still wear today, was hugely influenced by the Ballet Russe, in particular their show ‘Scheherazade’ in 1910, and the ballets use of vibrant colours. There are also many modern examples of fashion and ballet feeding off each other; the great late Alexander Mc Queen designed an exquisite silk kimono worn in a production of ‘Eonnagata’ in June 2010, and Gareth Pugh created wonderfully harsh and modern looks for ‘Carbon Life’ in London this year.
A famous example of the connection between fashion and ballet is the 7 Rodarte costumes featured in ‘Black Swan.’ However, the collaboration was not without controversy; first when it was realised the Rodarte sisters could not be involved in Oscar nominations for the film, as they were not members of the Costume Designers Guild of America, and later, when Black Swan’s actual costume designer, Amy Westcott, claimed the sisters were given too much credit for the looks worn by Natalie Portman in the film. The Rodarte sisters took their connection with ballet even further when they designed incredibly simple black and white costumes for ‘Two Hearts,’ a New York City Ballet production choreographed by Benjamin Millepied, choreographer for ‘Black Swan.’
The connections between these two art forms are everywhere. Away from the world of design, many models such as Karlie Kloss and Erin O’Connor began their careers as ballet dancers. Valentino explained the reason for this connection perfectly on his opening night, “Ballet speaks to me because of the romance I see in it, I realise the dancers do so much to be perfect, and in high fashion I always wanted perfection.”