Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse

Vendome. 2019. 272p. ISBN 9780865653733. $60. DEC ARTS
This accompaniment to an exhibition at New York’s Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology looks at the intersection of ballet, ballerinas, and fashion in modern culture. Fashion and dance historians chronicle the development of the Romantic ballet in the 19th century, elevated to a respectable art form by Marie Taglioni, who became the first ballerina to promote fashion trends. At the beginning of the 20th century, Anna Pavlova wore garments from designers Mariano Fortuny and Paul Poiret. From the 1930s through the 1950s, the popularity of ballet increased, leading to dancers modeling for magazines. In the mid-20th century, designers Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain, and Christóbal Balenciaga echoed ballet in their dresses with corseted bodices and tulle skirts. Concurrently, the rise of dance companies in England and America created stars such as Margot Fonteyn, who was always impeccably dressed offstage in Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. Ballerinas’ clothing also influenced the development of American sportswear in the 1950s and 1960s with the use of knitted material in swimsuits, wrapped tops and dresses, leggings, and ballet slippers worn as everyday shoes.
VERDICT As much a history of ballet as an exploration of the connections between ballerinas and fashion, this is recommended for readers interested in the crossover of both subjects.
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