Ballet – Classical Dance and High Fashion

The earliest roots of ballet can be traced back to Italy in the late 1400s. However, it wasn’t until much later in France under the reign of Louis XIV between 1643 and 1715 when it developed into the form we know today. Under his reign, the dance became known for its power and influence and this article looks at how the art has come to play a significant influence in contemporary fashion.

Ballet’s influence over fashion has become particularly apparent since the release of the highly acclaimed film Black Swan in which Natalie Portman plays the troubled and psychotic ballerina. This has thrust many ballet-inspired fashion garments and accessories to be thrust into mainstream culture. Such items include bodysuits reminiscent of leotards, dresses in the style of tutus and the highly popular ballet flats which are almost direct replicas of soft ballet shoes.

Yet ballet’s influence over fashion is evident much earlier than the idea behind Black Swan was even conceived. In fact, for over one hundred years, ballet and fashion have enjoyed a very close and fruitful relationship. The Ballet Russes (The Russion Ballets) provides a good example of this. This was a touring Russian ballet company which performed between 1909 and 1929 in many countries. Under the Direction of Sergei Diaghilev, it’s regarded as being the greatest ballet company of the 20th Century, and costume played a significant part in its success. The company invited rising artists of the time to collaborate in the design of costumes, one of which included Coco Chanel. The provocative costumes she designed for The Rite Of Spring is thought to be one of the contributing factors to the scandal caused by the production.

More recently, world renowned designer Yves Saint Laurent took much influence from the look of the Ballets Russes in his 1977 catwalk collection. Throughout the 1980s, films such as Fame, Flashdance and Dirty Dancing also had a significant influence over mainstream fashion as leotards, leg-warmers and leggings were worn by so many of the characters. Even more recently than this, Bjork wore a swan dress to the 2001 Academy Awards which may well have created a taste for the ballet-inspired clothes that are so readily available today. In addition to this, Sarah Jessica Parker also tried on a ballet tutu in an episode of hit US comedy Sex And The City. Cumulatively, these along with many other influences have led ballet wear to have a significant impact on mainstream fashion.

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