Photo: A collaboration between designer David Laport and the Dutch National Ballet for the 2018 Young Patrons Gala (Credit: David Laport/ Kunstmuseum den Haag)
With their mutual love of beauty, elegance and performance, fashion and ballet have long seemed perfect partners. But, until the early 20th Century, the relationship was decidedly one-sided. Although ballerinas have come to be seen by many as the epitome of style and refinement, they were, for a long time, tainted with an image of immorality.
It was not until the early 1930s when balletomania took hold that couturiers allowed themselves to be influenced by the newly respectable art form, designing luscious tutu-inspired gowns that reached their apogée in the divine creations of couturiers such as Christian Dior and Jacques Fath.
The latest wave of designer drops are one arabesque away from being classified as ballet dance gear
Ballet’s lengthy relationship with fashion is examined in the Kunstmuseum exhibition in The Hague, Let’s Dance!, and is also the subject of the book, Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse by Patricia Mears, deputy director of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. In 2018 Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior literally brought fashion and dance together.
Christian Dior Haute Couture S/S 2019 | Photo: Jasper Abels| Styling: Maarten Spruyt | Make-up and hair: Mascha Meyer
And she is certainly not the only designer who sees the world of dance as a great source of inspiration. Many others recently follow her! Today it seems the latest wave of designer drops are one arabesque away from being classified as ballet dance gear! And there’s a very strong reason!
“I see the ballet-all-day movement as the natural evolution from athleisure,” says New York–based stylist Madeleine Jones cited by Vogue magazine.
It’s part of a greater realization that, come what may, we’ve officially “decided comfort is enough, any day of the week,” says Jones, who practiced the Renaissance-born art into her late teens. She recognizes that while leggings and gymwear were already in rotation, this is fashion’s next step from sweats into more dramatic territory.
“Now with the ballet movement, there’s a way to give purpose and elevate from athleisure to something almost theatrical,” Jones explains. “So even when you’re putting on leggings, a wrap cardigan, or a corset, it still feels like you’re dressing up—but not overdressed.”
And for New York City Ballet’s Corps de Ballet dancer India Bradley, the arrival of fashion’s most inspired styles—like Miu Miu and Dries van Noten leg warmers or a Jacquemus full-body mohair sweater set (below)—is cosmically timed with the return of live performances. “I’m proud of finishing our fall season at New York City Ballet after over a year of not being able to perform,” says Bradley.
“It was amazing to see how quickly everyone was back into shape—and dancing more beautifully than ever. She shares her real staples like Alo Yoga bodysuits, Victoria’s Secret’s On Point collection (as one of the brand’s newest faces), and chill Yeezy slides. Jones, on the other hand, touts designers like Kristen Mallison, who repurposes pointe slippers into tailored tops, as well as Renea Rivere’s line Zepherina, which uses deadstock cotton jersey for dance-inspired tights.
Since 2012, The New York City Ballet has teamed new choreographers with leading fashion designers, such as Iris Van Herpen, in their annual autumn gala
Fashion designers, however, lost none of their enthusiasm for ballet, and instead turned to costume design. Designers as diverse as Christian Lacroix, Vivienne Westwood, Valentino and Viktor and Rolf have all brought their own unique style to ballet costumes.
Since 2012, The New York City Ballet has teamed new choreographers with leading fashion designers, such as Iris Van Herpen, in their annual autumn gala. Fashion has always been cyclical, and in recent years the ballet aesthetic has made a return to the catwalk.