There’s a strong connection between ballet and fashion. Ballet dancers need beautiful costumes to complement their amazing dancing, but these are specialist pieces, not the kind of clothes you would normally wear on the street. Fashion designers often work with similar concepts, designing something amazing to showcase what they do, not always for use on the high street.
And often, the two meet – including these fashion designers who create for ballet.
Le Train Bleu
One of the early examples of a designer working with a ballet company was back in 1924 when Le Train Bleu was produces by Ballets Russes. This was a revolutionary ballet in many ways, featuring a story by Jean Cocteau and costumes by none other than Coco Chanel. The fascinating casual-chic costumes worked perfectly with the story and its focus on dilettantes as opposed to mythical figures.
If ever there was a designer that was perfect to collaborate with ballet, it is Jean Paul Gaultier. In this production of Snow White in the Ballet Preljocaj, the designer creates the costumes for the dancers including glossy leather bustier and corsets that still allowed them all the movement they need and were perfect for the fairy tale story.
The New York City Ballet production of this Rodarte ballet featured graphic black and white costumes for the dancers that were created by Laura and Kate Mulleavy. What made the costumes so effective were the way they were simple and stylish, allowing the dancers and their movements to be the entire focus of the act.
When your first ballet debuts, it is very useful to have your designer daughter come along to make the costumes for it! And that’s what happened with the New York City Ballet’s showing of Ocean’s Kingdom, the first ballet by Sir Paul McCartney with stunning psychedelic costumes created by his daughter Stella.
The costumes for this special collaboration of Francesco Vezzoli and David Hallberg for the American Ballet Theatre featured costumes by Miuccia Prada and Fabio Zambernadi. The tunic and skirt costume for Hallberg drew as much attention as his return after a break of a year!
When Ballet Preljocaj put on One Thousand and One Nights (Les Nuits) then they decided to bring in Azzedine Alaia to handle the design. The result was revealing costumes with cut-outs and transparent sections that perfectly matched the erotic nature of the dance.
The job of Riccardo Tisci for this production of Bolero for the Paris Opera Ballet was a challenging one to create transparent costumes that highlighted the bodies of the dancers. He did this by using embroidery for the rib bones and spinal cords, creating a sensual and almost eerie look for the dancers.
This ballet features the story of Salem, Massachusetts during the witch trials and required something as a visual cue to show the social stigma felt by these women during the time. To portray this Olivier Theyskens created costumes with glossy red marks on them that perfectly highlighted the feeling of accusation that the dancers were portraying.