Wednesday, 20 October 2010


The Victoria and Albert Museum are currently holding an exhibition entitled Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russes: 1909 - 1929. A must see for everyone interested in 1920's society, fashions of the time, designer connections to the ballet, or even just ballet purely isolated as a dance form.

The Ballet Russes was pioneered by Sergei Diaghilev, a Russian creative director, artisan and socialite, who took traditional forms of ballet and developed it into a ground-breaking dance company which incorporated Orientalism, high fashion and radical choreography. For theatre, fashion and dance ever since, the Ballet Russes has had a lasting influence.

The biggest designers of the time; Coco Chanel, Paul Poiret and Leon Bakst, were heavily involved in the costume of the Ballet Russes, designing cutting-edge pieces that allowed the dancers freedom of movement whilst simultaneously conveying the story. The heavy Orientalist connotations, influenced by Diaghilev's upbringing, were featured in colour ways, bold patterns and silhouettes. The harem pant, jewelled colours and Art Nouveau patterns brought this theme together - which was aided and abetted by the influx of Japanese artwork throughout the 1920's and the discovery of Tutankhamun in 1922.

The Ballet Russes was a true fashion phenomenon, yet I have realised, not so widely acknowledged by contemporary fashion enthusiasts. Perhaps this is due to its brief life, engulfed by other major events of the 1920's. Although the Ballet Russes continues today, it has not had the impact in fashion that it initially had, however, hopefully the V&A exhibition will highlight the true importance and influence of such an exciting movement.

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