There’s often a bit of resistance from the world of high fashion when it comes to creating clothing for dancers. Alexander McQueen was one example who always said he didn’t want to become the ‘costume department’ by working on creating outfits for dance – but even he broke his rule for the 2009 production Eonnagata.
In fact, there is a strong case for crossing dance with fashion and that the two are forever linked.
Design Gareth Pugh put it one way – that there is a natural synergy between fashion and dance. Both have an element of fantasy and both heightening the everyday into something amazing. Whether it is through amazing choreography and the movement of the dancers or the stunning way an outfit looks on someone and how it alters everything about them, both work in the world of fantasy.
In fact, some see the two as being key to success. British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon often worked with fashion designers for his productions. This included working with Erdem Moralioglu, a designer known for his use of unusual and experimental textiles on the project Wheeldon’s Fool’s Paradise, showing in the Royal Opera House. For Moralioglu, the experience was an amazing one, the chance to be inspired by the music, the dance and vision of the producer, rather than just what was in his own head for a collection.
Dance and Fashion
In fact, there is a strong crossover between dance and fashion and there always has been. In one sense, as soon as you add a seam to a ballet dress, you are dealing with fashion. The same applies to an 18th-century style dress or a leotard from the 1980s – all of these are fashion in the most basic way.
White tulle dresses from the early 1800s that were born by ballerinas are a classic example of the importance of fashion on dance. This style came from the Romantic era when heroines were delicate and ethereal. Added to that was the influences of the French Revolution when light, loose-fitting frocks had replaced the opulent styles of before. And there was the practicality – these dresses made it far easier for dancers to bend and lift their legs as well as to jump.
Flappers and leotards
Another example is the form-fitting dresses of the 1920s flapper girls – a simple style of dress that had a big impact. Their use in dance moved things towards a more modern aesthetic but also eventually led to the most famous dancewear – the leotard.
Fashion also influenced the economics of dance in the early 20th century. As ballet moved away from state-funded and modern dance began to appear, companies had to start to market themselves. Fashion was already becoming a global industry, and this was something that dance could follow and learn from.
Famous designers and dance
While Alexander McQueen may have been reluctant to get involved with creating dance costumes, others were less wary. Coco Chanel even designed costumes for Le Train Bleu, a 1924 satirical lifestyle ballet created by Sergei Diaghilev.
Later, Christmas Lacroix worked with the Paris Opera Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre. As recently as 2015, Prada worked with dancers from Tanztheatre Wuppertal showing that even now, the connection between dance and fashion remains a strong one.