Today I stopped by the Museum at FIT to check out “Dance & Fashion”, an exhibit that explores the relationship between the two art forms. Nearly 100 dance costumes and dance-inspired fashions are on display, ranging from the 19th century to present day. This post includes photos of several ballets whose costumes were included in the exhibit.
It is clear that costume and fashion designers have taken inspiration from each other. Tutus and pointe shoes of the Romantic ballet closely resembled fashions of the 1830s and 1840s, and designers from Christian Dior to Christian Louboutin have been inspired by the iconic image of the ballerina. In recent years, fashion designers have increasingly been invited to design costumes for ballet and modern dance (not always to great effect, but when dance and fashion mingle, the publicity opportunity cannot be denied). The challenge, of course, is that dancers require clothing that doesn’t restrict the choreography. Marc Happel, costume director for New York City Ballet, is quoted in the exhibit: “Fashion designers need to realize that the dancer is not walking down a runway – she is leaping into the air. When they design for a dancer, they are designing for an athlete.”
While the number of costumes on display is impressive, one limitation of the exhibit is that it fails to show the beauty of costumes on dancers in motion. A few videos show brief footage from a variety of dances, but all of the costumes were displayed on mannequins. I would have loved to have seen even more videos and photographs to capture the costumes at their liveliest moments.
The exhibit also includes an in-motion portrait of dancer Wendy Whelan by her husband, the artist and photographer David Michalek. The slow-motion footage is from the Dries Van Noten retrospective Inspirations, which took place in Paris earlier this year.
“Dance & Fashion” is well worth the visit. The exhibit continues through January 3, 2015, and admission to the museum is free.