As a former ballet dancer who now works in fashion, I can’t help but perk up when the two worlds collide in some way (unless, it’s, well, bad), whether it’s a designer collaborating on costumes for a production, or taking inspiration from the beautifully demanding art form. As of today, Erdem Moralioglu has done both — and well.
For Fall 2021, the London-based designer looked back to his 2018 collaboration with The Royal Ballet, when he designed costumes for a new production. Specifically, he was inspired by dancers before they take the stage. “We are in the wings, that liminal space between onstage and offstage, observing dancers criss-crossing over the mental and physical threshold to perform, moving from private to public and back again in a beat, a breath and the stretching or tensing of a limb,” read the show notes. He also looked to images of famed ballerina Margot Fonteyn, as she continued dancing into her 40s (unheard of in the ballet world), backstage, in rehearsal and off-duty.
“The collection explores these particular juxtapositions of performance and rest, age and expectation, formal costume and informal clothing, variously combined and intertwined.” Moralioglu even cast four current and former Royal Ballet principal dancers — Christina Arestis, Elizabeth McGorian, Zenaida Yanowsky and Marguerite Porter — to walk among the models.
The virtual show (which you can watch above) features the women strolling nonlinearly in a dark, black space, which brought me back to my own experiences backstage during a performance, admiring the professional dancers warming up and stretching in their beautiful costumes, often accessorized with leg-warmers and other casual layers that would be cast aside when it was time to take the stage. Moralioglu nailed this perennially cool juxtaposition, pairing ribbed knit leggings, shorts, arm-warmers and headbands with more formal tops, jackets or dresses; or having the straps of a leotard peeking out under a beautifully embroidered and/or printed A-line dress. “Items worn to keep muscles warm become layers of protection and markers of private identity amidst the uniformity of costume.” On the models’ feet were either actual point shoes or (equally treacherous-looking) point shoe-inspired platforms.
Other ballet-inspired motifs include cream, feathered pieces recalling “Swan Lake,” voluminous tulle skirts, tailored suits a ballet mistress might wear and dresses with oversized jewel embellishments “to be seen from the back of the auditorium.” Suffice it to say, Moralioglu did his research.
Of course, pull off the warm-ups and swap out the point shoes for pumps and most of the clothes could readily be worn far away from the Royal Opera House — maybe even as far as a red carpet in Los Angeles, someday. See the full Erdem Fall 2021 collection in the gallery below.