A few years ago, now, the exhibition Ballet Russe: The Art of Costume rolled into the cold, wintry town of Canberra. Courtesy of Aesop, the wonderful company I used to work for, I went to the opening of the exhibition and was instantly immersed in one of the most colourful, fascinating worlds I'd ever seen. I was smitten. I was home.
Recently, before our life kind of blew up in our faces (had to move house twice, had no money, blah blah etc.) I bought myself the catalogue from this exhibition. I could not recommend it highly enough, especially for vintage costume nerds like myself - it has amazing detail shots of certain pieces and their labels, as well as blow-by-blow descriptions of costume restorations. Which I love.
I think I REALLY just outed myself as a nerd.
The images I've included from the book got me thinking about some of my own vintage costume pieces, collected carefully over the years, often fragile and yellowed and missing bits and pieces, but so beautifully constructed! And, well, so sparkly! I keep them, more often than not, wrapped up in white bedsheets except when I want to prance around in them. If indeed I fit into them. Ladies (or drag queens) in days of yore must have been missing some vital organs because these things are TIGHT.
This one seems unfinished, but I think that is because the bodice was meant to tuck into a skirt or shorts. It is a 1940s circus costume, and the prong-set rhinestone cast rainbows in the light.
And in case, like me, you're dying the see the insides of these garments to get a clue as to how they were made:
This dress isn't technically a costume, it is a 1960s cocktail dress by Malcolm Starr, but the painstakingly hand-painted silk and the heavily applied rhinestones remind me very much of a Ballet Russe costume. This dress is incredible difficult to wear, as the rhinestones constantly catch on the fabric, and the weight of the bejeweled dress is a burden on the feather-light silk. So this dress is designated: SHORT, SHOWSTOPPING OUTINGS ONLY.