Twentieth Century

At the turn of the twentieth century, ballet costumes reformed again under the more liberal influence of the Russian choreographer Michel Fokine. Ballerina skirts changed gradually to become knee-length tutus designed to show off the point work and multiple turns, which

Isadora Duncan Sketch

Program featuring Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina. By the end of the nineteenth century, tights were a standard part of the male dancer's ensemble due to the great range of motion they offered. © Gianni Dagli Orti/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.

Program featuring Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina. By the end of the nineteenth century, tights were a standard part of the male dancer's ensemble due to the great range of motion they offered. © Gianni Dagli Orti/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.

formed the focus of dance practice. The dancer Isadora Duncan freed ballerinas from corsets and introduced a revolutionary natural silhouette. The Russian impresario and producer Serge Diaghilev marked this era with his creative innovations, and professional costumers like Alexandre Benois and Léon Bakst demonstrated, in performances such as Schéhérezade (1910), that the influence of Orientalism had spread from fashion to the stage and vice versa. Indeed, fashion designers like Jean Poiret had already used the tunic shape taken up by dancers in the prewar era, and, in the 1920s, costume designers updated classical Russian story ballets with exotic tunics and veils wrapped around the body. Ballet dancers were dressed in loose tunics, harem pants, and turbans, rather than in the established tutu and feather headdress. Instead of discreet pastel colors vibrant shades, such as yellow, orange, or red, often in wild patterns, gave an unprecedented visual impression of exciting exoticism to the spectator.

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