Searching the Past for Astonishing Clothes
The delightful past revived by the genius of Bakst and other designers
How famous designer Bakst creates stage costumes.
In the margin – detailed instructions concerning the shape of the costume and its colors.
The most striking feature of modern fashion we see in the streets and parlors is the similarity of garments to the ones from the past. The so-called military style repeats historical military costumes. Designers search the past for a source of inspiration, preferably, a source that hasn’t yet been used. The times of Watteau, the Empire and the Revolution are the principal source of inspiration for designing hats, dresses, and shoes which the women today wear with genuine pleasure, having little idea of their artistic and historical origins.
What is true for fashion is equally true for theater. Great opera performances, with their exciting action taking place in the past, strike with the “power of imagination” of the times gone by. As a great designer, Bakst apparently used his theatrical experience of resorting to the artistic images of the past. In his theatrical performances the headdresses of the female characters are exact copies of splendid headdresses of the 18th century with their intricate details. However, the ball dresses, mesmerizing trained gowns, bodices decorated with jewels, close-fitting or sweeping dresses reflect the whole range of modern artistic devices and incredible color combinations. Creating a dress design, Bakst makes extremely scrupulous notes about each shade of color and each peculiarity of form in the margin – and woe to the seamstress who dares break them. He knows that the harmony of the composition achieved by him may be destroyed by just one false touch. Of course, to some these combinations seem pompous, unnatural, and ugly. But eventually Bakst, as a rule, receives the well-deserved recognition.
Madame Pavlova in a costume by Bakst