What Modern Fashion Owes to the Bakst Influence

The Fitchburg Daily Sentinel.1916/1916

The State Tretyakov Gallery

The State Tretyakov Gallery

What Modern Fashion Owes to the Bakst Influence
Color, Vivid and Daring, Yet Color Subtly Harmonious To Have Its Era. Jewelry Shows the Clear Blue Stones Used To Decorate Bakst Costumes
The Psyche Knot Becomes Fashionable With Other Greek Bakst Effects.
A new prophet has arisen in the realm of dress. It is Leon Bakst, the now far-famed Russian artist whose costumes and scenic designs for the remarkable series of imaginative dramas in Serge de Diaghileff’s Ballet Russe are the talk of the hour. Leon Bakst, whose colors, whose lines, whose individuality, whose fearlessness, whose genius are being lauded now on every hand, is not unknown to America. About three years ago the Bakst paintings, exhibited in New York, aroused a pleasant stir in artistic circles. But only a few saw the marvel of them; only the daring ventured to approve without reservation in the face of protesting convention and tradition.
Now the whole civilized world is ringing with the name of Leon Bakst — Bakst the inimitable; Bakst the incredible; Bakst the Intensely, arrestingly modern; Bakst who has taken elemental emotions and depicted them through the imagery and the poesy of his own genius; who has borrowed the primal colors and used them, together with his clean-cut lines. In wonderful decorative designs that are never crude but always subtle and compelling.
Bakst Costumes for the Ballet Russe.
All through January the Russian dancers will be in New York, and during February and March they will make a tour of the important cities of North America. Paris and London have gone mad over these dancers and over the weird, fascinating, indescribably beautiful fantasies which their dances interpret and express. Individual Russian dancers have visited America in past seasons but never before has there been opportunity, here, to see the complete spectacle of the Ballet Russe; the dancers against their own backgrounds, intheir own environment M. de Diaghileff has brought with him his full company — fifty or more dancers and at their head stand the incomparable Nijinsky, the most beautiful and most wonderful male dancer of the present day; and Karsavina is said to be the subtlest exponent of her art in any day.
The costumes of all the dancers, and not only the costumes but the scenic designs whose backgrounds blend the costumes into gorgeous harmony, are the work of Bakst. There is the somber magnificence of his setting for Scheherazade, the exquisite beauty of the hillside setting for L'Apres-Midid'un Faune, the barbaric splendor of the scene in which Thamar awaits her prey. But it is the costumes which will chiefly interest women who go to the theatre for new inspirations in raiment.
For example, the costume of the eunuch in Scheherazade has had an immediate influence on Parisian evening gowns of the winter. In this costume there is a wide sash or girdle of soft silk which is wound around the figure above and below the waistline, extending to the armpits at the top. This deep girdle, forming a sort of apology for a bodice, and held up by shoulderstraps of pearls or crystal beads is to be seen again and again in winter dance frocks — and it was borrowed by its originator from the Bakst costume of the head eunuch. Since this costume is typical of the Bakst brilliance and daring of color it is worthy of detailed description.
The baggy trousers and broad girdle are bright orange, the long jacket vermillion red; the tall cap Vermillion also. The vermillion coat is embroidered with zigzags of gold braid; the trousers have pendant white glass baubles. A huge ornament of gold and blue stones clasps the right arm and the girdle is encrusted with blue stones set in rims of vermillion. Remember that this costume is worn by a tall, coal black — or blackened — with great earrings of white glass, rings on every finger and a curved scimitar in his hand and you have the full impressiveness of the effect.
Karsavina’s Famous Scheherazade Costume
Undoubtedly the much be-slashed costume of the Sultan's Favorite will form inspiration for many a boudoir negligees in the next twelve months. And by the way it was Bakst who was responsible for the slashed skirt which so upset Mrs. Grundy three years ago. The slashed skirt appeared in New York immediately after the exhibition of Bakst paintings had set the critics all agog. But this is a divergence — back to Scheherazade and the Sultan's Favorite as interpreted by Karsavina — and Bakst. The much slashed nether garment of this costume is of thin rose Colored silk, banded at ankle, knee and hip by pearls. Around the thighs are wide bands of pearls and emeralds, and the stomacher, under the small jacket of silk, is of encrusted jewels — rubies, emeralds and pearls.
Another Karsavina costume is worn by the dancer as she appears in Prince Igor in the Ballet Russe.
Skirt and trousers are of rich magenta red satin heavily embroidered in purple and gold. The tunic of filmy pink silk is striped with faint lines of red. The head piece of gold-colored silk is edged with pearls and ornamented with purple stones set in pearls.
Colors Bakst Has Made The Fashion.
It will take the master-skill of an artist to combine strong, primal hues such as Leon Bakst revels in; and though some couturiers are attempting it, the color effects are markedly subdued when compared with original Bakst sketches for the costumes of the Ballet Russe. Vermillion he combines daringly with orange. Peacock-blue and magenta go hand in hand. Various purples mingle fearlessly with reds. It is in the adroit introduction of whites and blacks that Bakst shows his greatest skill; and also in his nice balancing of tones — his proportions of color. Bakst-blue is a splendid shade that has already become fashionable. Cherries and plums used as trimming motifs he has also introduced to fashionable consideration and it is safe to say that the new Bakst veil will take femininity by storm. Karsavina wears this demurely coquettish veil with a love of an early Victorian bonnet in the irresistibly dainty fantasy, Papillion, one of the most interesting features of the Ballet Russe. The bonnet, reincarnated from the ‘40s, accompanies a long, full skirt on which are flounces, pinked at the edge. The skirt is black, the long waisted basque, white; a delightful shoulder cape gathered into a frill white also. At either side of the bonnet fall folds of black and white veiling, framing the face. And each wisp of veil is caught against the bonnet with a red, red rose. Truly Bakst, this touch of red rose in the black arid white costume! And now comes along Lanvin with a black silk frock trimmed with pink ruffles and a cape-like bodice shirred into a ruche. And there is a demure bonnet-hat with a puffed crown and a pleated frill at the edge and a red rose against one side.
A wrap "after Bakst" is pictured and its color outdoes even the most brilliant Poiret creation of past years. The ground of the wrap is orange, splashed with sprawling figures in yellow with outlines and minor embroideries in vermillion. The lining is vermillion satin. Peach, apricot, primrose and Jade green are combined most exquisitely in another modern costume whose supple, closely fitting tunic and loosely knotted girdle suggest the Bakst influence. Gauzy net in silver floats about this costume, and emerald, jade and turquoises are imitated in the jeweled trimming. The Oriental headdress is of black velvet and deep blue beads.
A dinner gown of black velvet, white lace and rhinestones lacks the Bakst suggestion of color, but it traces the Bakst influence none the less in the oddly lifted drapery, showing festoons of beads beneath and in the bead embroidery and bead strings on the bodice. This bodice with its shoulder straps of jet and pearls suggests an excessive décolletage, but above it is a band of cream lace and above that a very modest chemise of flesh pink chiffon reaching quite to the throat.
And finally, the pantalet — sacred to the memory of Queen Victoria's scrupulous modesty in the early days of her reign, as one has always supposed — is now laid at the door of Bakst. It is a direct style inspiration, say the couturiers, of Bakst costumes for the Ballet Russe in which, though the dancers dance on slimly supple bare toes, ankles are usually covered with some Oriental form of bloomer or slashed trouser which might easily be termed pantalet — if one so chooses.
Traceable to Bakst in this helmet cap with its daring feather.
Peach, apricot, primrose and Jade green are the sunset colors in this gown.
The Oriental idea produces a new theater cap of silver net and beads.
The new coiffure Russe has a decided Bakst suggestion.
A new wrap brocade after Bakst <…>

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  • Title: What Modern Fashion Owes to the Bakst Influence
  • Creator: The Fitchburg Daily Sentinel.
  • Date: 1916/1916
  • Location: США