Chanel by Marie Laurencin

The French haute couture shows come to end today on a surprisingly relevant note, as vaguely ballet-inspired palettes and ethereal creations sashayed down the runway at couture giants Chanel and Valentino. Ever one to pick up on the zeitgeist, Karl Lagerfeld cited French painter Marie Laurencin as inspiration for Chanel’s S/S 2011 haute couture collection, beginning with a portrait that Coco commissioned [and later rejected] from Laurencin herself in the early 1920s. What makes this so serendipitous is the fact that the two women met while collaborating with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes on costumes and set design, respectively, for two very different ballets. With the recent release of Black Swan [with costumes by wunderkind-sister-duo Rodarte] it’s safe to say that culture and fashion are colliding again nearly 100 years later, as we enter a Ballet Moment. Laurencin was working on the sets for Les Biches [The Does] in 1923, inspired by her painting of the same name, while Chanel was costuming Le Train Bleu, the latter featuring a much more contemporary take on ballet costumes of the era.  While Chanel may have rejected Laurencin’s painting, claiming it didn’t resemble her true visage, it’s clear how the painting and its colors influenced Chanel’s haute couture looks for the season.  The pretty, saccharine-sweet styles are a stark contrast with Chanel’s early-20th-century vision of what ballet costumes should look like, as she placed dancers in Le Train Bleu in pragmatic knit sportswear from her 1923 collection.

To see more ballet-inspired reports on Stylesight, click here. For more information on Les Ballets Russes, visit London’s Victoria & Albert Museum website, which recently closed an exhibition on just this topic.

Portrait of Chanel by Marie Laurencin, 1923                     Chanel in 1920, image by Time magazine

S/S 2011 Chanel Haute Couture

Les Biches, painting by Marie Laurencin, 1923

Les Biches (The Does) as performed by the Royal Ballet, 2005; image by NYtimes

Set for Sergei Diaghilev’s Le Train Bleu, with costumes by Chanel, 1924

Dancers in Chanel for Le Train Bleu, 1924

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