Ballet on the runway

26 October 2009 | By Anna Sutton

Ballet and fashion are timeless partners and this spring the pairing was no more apparent than at New York Fashion Week, Spring/Summer 2010. Pastel and nude shades, romantic shapes and delicate fabrics mingled with theatrical elements to create wearable fashions, inspired by ballerinas in their various guises.

Rachel Antonoff transformed the Henry Street playhouse on the unofficial opening night of NYFW using a playful vintage aesthetic. Models, who included ballerinas and performers, acted out ‘parts’ in what resembled a 1940s small-town variety show meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ethereal creatures in demure ensembles comprising tutus, ballet slippers, Albertus Swanepoel crowns, floral frocks and ice-cream-coloured dresses flitted through the golden cardboard trees and swing sets of the ‘Enchanted Forest’ and the ‘Disenchanted Forest’.

Designer Malan Breton, himself a former dancer, sent dapper, high-sheened ballerinas (Audrey Hatch, Brittany Franklin, and Kevin Wiltz) dancing down the runway to the sounds of a 30-piece orchestra at the Metropolitan Pavilion  for his collection. The show was inspired by the Karin Pritzel photograph Flight of Freedom featuring Breton’s muse Leigh Alderson and evoked the silk-and-satin regality of a ballet opening.

Marc Jacobs collaborated with François Nars and Guido Palau to cast faces and hair in the spotlight for his ready-to-wear show. The disciplined look was inspired by dancer Martha Graham and incorporated kabuki-white faces, painterly eyebrows, false eyelash-fringed eyes and precise lips controlled by tight-fisted chignon buns. The idea was to create the flawed beauty of a post-show performer, with their perspiration blurring the mask-like makeup. The effect was very much classical ballerina channeling Pierrot with the flamboyance of New Wave goths.

Vera Wang’s ready-to-wear collection, ‘Partying with Poiret‘, referenced mid-20th Century designer and emancipator Paul Poiret‘s signature use of drapery in fashion. Wang transformed simple shapes using organza, tulle and gauze delicately layered over athletic undergarments. Arresting embellishments of chainmail-esque jewellery and vampish platforms with criss-cross ankle straps gave a toughness to the romantic sensibility on display.

Image: Backstage at the Rachel Antonoff show, New York Fashion Week