As a big fan of Coco Chanel and Pablo Picasso, I was intrigued by their costume designs in Diaghilev’s productions. Costumes give producers the freedom to display a variety of visual effects and feelings of the dances. There are many recordings of the costume masterpieces available for Diaghilev’s dance company Ballets Russes.

Ballets Russes and the artists that worked for it revolutionized the fashion world. Before Diaghilev, there were only a few colors commonly used in the fashion world. Colors such as orange and aquamarine were “banned” because they were considered eccentric, but this view was challenged by costume designers of Ballets Russes: Natalia Goncharova, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, André Derain, Georges Braque, André Masson and Giorgio de Chirico. They created a variety of costumes with interesting prints that were unfamiliar to the fashion world. There were also more flexibilities in the use of textiles in the Ballets Russes. Some used layers of ragged and heavy materials for bold and luxurious looks for characters such as the emperors and the monsters. Others were fitting and lightweight to enhance on the natural shapes of the body while adapting patterns to connect between the humans and the abstracts in the form of painted leotards. It was perhaps around this time that fashion was divided into two branches: the bold and the natural

Stage make-up during the Romantic era usually consisted of dark eyes and pale skin with lots of white powder, giving female dancers willowy looks. Ballets Russes defied the look with exaggerated and colorful makeup, particularly in the lips and cheeks. Nowadays the colors remained in our stage makeups, but the shapes of the makeup became more natural to match with the natural and comfortable leotards that dancers prefer. However, there still remains a hint of boldness in modern fashion designs.

Some of the bold costume design illustrations in Ballets Russes:

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More simple or fitting designs:

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