With the exception of Natalie Portman, Darren Aronofsky’s mesmerising Black Swan may have lost out during the awards season, yet its magnificent costume design by Amy Westcott and cult New York fashion label Rodarte perfectly captured the fashion zeitgeist.
The imagery of the ballerinas and their costumes has been a perpetual source of inspiration for fashion designers, and in terms of trends for SS’11, ballet is once again taking centre stage. We witnessed its influence back in September, when a host of designers sent ballet-inspired creations down their SS’ll catwalks.
The structure and flow of ballet costumes was reflected in dresses with fitted bodices, tight waistlines and pleated skirts either flared out just above the knee or billowing down to the floor to replicate the graceful movements of ballerinas onstage.
Chloe’s artistic director Hannah MacGibbon was clearly inspired by the exquisite art form as the label’s latest collection was awash with soft, natural hues, velvet bodies and billowing sheer skirts with plisse and satin trims, while her models took to the catwalk in gorgeous ballet flats. At Lanvin, the essence of ballerina’s movements was captured through sweeping, volumous skirts while Julien Macdonald mimiked the contruction of a tutu with layers of fine fabrics used in dresses with Flamenco-style hemlines which flowed down the catwalk.
Erdem was another designer who chose to build his collection around the classic ballerina silhouette with tiny waistlines above full and floaty knee-skimming skirts done in lace and white shoes with ribbons tied up the calves like ballet slippers. For those looking for a less feminine edge to the trend, Christopher Kane gave us his take on the ballerina style in eye-catching pops of acidic pink and orange.
David Koma provided the most literal nod to his inspiration when it came to presenting his SS’11 collection, opening to the familiar lilting notes of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Taking his cue from the story of the beloved classic ballet, he began with his Odiles dancing down the catwalk in flared thigh high skirts and fitted bodies with linear edges, instilling both the white and black incarnations of the character with undertones of sexual appeal. He followed with monochrome pieces depicting the princess in transition, and closed, of course, with the all-black Odette, updated in leather.
While ballet costume design clearly impacts on the creations of top fashion designers,Giles Deacon is returning the favour by designing the costume for Swan Lake’s Odile to mark the English National Ballet’s 60th anniversary this month. While they have been publically scraping over the spoils of recognition for their work on the film version, Amy Westcott and the Rodarte twins have set the bar high with the stunning outfits Natalie Portman wears as her character Nina makes the transition from innocent white swan to its dark, dangerous and sexually charged twin.
As she completes the exceptionally danced and choreographed piece Nina literally sprouts feathers, as in her mind she has finally killed off her fragile side to become the black swan; it could only be done in film and looks incredible!
As the popularity of Black Swan has suggested, it’s not just the world of fashion that has become captivated by the most delicate form of dance; the ballet aesthetic has hot-footed it to the beauty counter as well, with the public going head-over-heels for pretty pallettes of pink from Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel. Later this year will see the release of Pina, Dance, Dance, Otherwise We Are Lost, a 3D film about choreographer Pina Bausch from indie film director Win Wender.
Ballet’s long and illustrious history is set to be showcased through literature and exhibitions dedicated to the art form; Jennifer Homans, a former ballerina has published Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet in which she sets a case for ballet as the central art form to every civilisation, and The Proud Gallery in London is showing its first exhibition dedicated to ballet. There’s also plenty of opportunity to see the real thing for ourselves, as The Royal Ballet and Scottish Ballet will be retelling the magical tale of Alice in Wonderland throughout April and May, and the The Royal Ballet are also dancing Romeo and Juliet at the O2 Arena in June with superstar dancers Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo as leads.
BBC4 is currently showing a documentary following the English National Ballet as they prepare for their own production of Swan Lake. While it demonstrates the enormous amount of time, work and commitment put in by all those involved in the process and proves a fascinating insight into that claustrophobic and competitive world , for me it detracts from the magic of watching a ballet production in its entirety. What fascinates me most about ballet is the poise, elegance, grace and beauty shown in the dancers perfectly controlled movements and the pinpoint precision of the mesmerizing chorus and the overall ability to tell a story in such a beautiful way without any words at all. In a world dominated by film, TV and mass media in general, its nice to observe a narrative solely told in movement and music.
As far as fashion’s concerned, I’m really excited about the fun, feminine and romantic ballerina trend and can’t wait untill summer when I can waft around in a tight body suit under long pleated skirts with billowing layers of chiffon worn with cute ballet pumps and my hair done up in a messy ballerina bun. (Okay so given Glasgow’s temperamental weather I probably won’t be doing this but hey, a girl can dream!) It’s a look that’s simple and elegant, achieved in soft materials and floaty fabrics kept minimal in natural tones and clean lines. See below for some high street inspirations!
Left to right from top to bottom: Dress Mango £79,90, Dress Mango £99.90, Skirt Topshop £35, Dress Topshop £150, Satin Pleated Skirt Rare £20, Bodysuits American Apparel £65, Ballet Flats Topshop £18, Coral Dress Topshop £35, Shoes Ted Baker £90
All catwalk images are courtesy of Style.com