For Fall/Winter 2021, the London-based designer Erdem Moralioglu looked back to his 2018 collaboration with The Royal Ballet, when he designed costumes for a new production.
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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.
The spirit of the collection comes from Margot Fonteyn in the period of her career when she began dancing with Rudolf Nureyev. In 1961 when they first met, Fonteyn was 42 and Nureyev was 23. She was ready to retire, but such was the alchemy of their performance that she danced on for nearly two decades. Their synergy transcended taboo and shattered staid views about the age of a female dancer and the arc of her career. Photographs from this era show Fonteyn off duty, backstage and in rehearsal, powerful with poise even in repose.
The collection explored these particular juxtapositions of performance and rest, age and expectation, formal costume and informal clothing, variously combined and intertwined. The contrasts in this collection were charming – models wore little wool caps or thick headbands and dangly diamond earrings, exaggerated platforms shaped like ballet slippers, and while some even carried blankets to warm those hardworking muscles.
The clothes were unmistakably Erdem – grand and couture-ish – with lovely touches from the wardrobe of a diva, including feather prints nodding to ‘’Swan Lake’’ and dramatic details, such as giant crystals, nodding to the British choreographer Frederick Ashton.
Elsewhere dresses are cut in an open way as to appear pulled over another garment, or falling off. Several dresses are merged with the underpinning, revealing the structure that holds both costume and dancer in place. Exposed utility makes for a particularly fragile beauty. Opera coats and voluminous pleated skirts introduce a more powerful glamour. A cotton trench worn over a long billowing ostrich skirt suggests she is rushing elsewhere at the end of the performance with no time to change.
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