The Dance Enthusiast launched a brand new series of events on November 12th, starting with one of my favorite topics: dance & fashion! Janet Eilber, artistic director of Martha Graham Dance Company, Valerie Steele, Chief Director/Chief Curator of the Museum at FIT, and Reid Bartelme, fashion & costume designer, comprised a panel led by Christine Jowers of Dance Enthusiast in exploring how fashion and dance fit together.
Here’s the thing guys, I think Valerie, who curated the FIT Dance & Fashion Exhibition, put this in a very succinct way: dance and fashion are form focused. This means that they’re both playing on very similar forms of expression, which is why it makes sense that they would draw inspiration from one another. I think most of you know by now that dance-wear inspired pieces regularly re-emerge on the runway every season. I want to make a case for dance-wear inspiration as the next step in the evolution in fashion. Alexander Wang already pointed out that ease of wear is the wave of the future on the runways. Designers are quickly noticing that younger generations revel in having functionality in their clothing. Dance takes the question further by allowing the idea that functionality can completely exist with dazzling detailing previously delegated to form-constricting pieces.
Designers relied heavily on athletic inspiration last season. This doesn’t mean models walked down the runways in helmets and knee-pads. Instead, we suddenly saw designers unfurl pieces inspired by movement, noting that dancers are the rigorous athletes that underpinned the ideas. Constricting pieces are now often seen at couture presentations while utility reigns on the ready-to-wear runways. This obviously ties in perfectly to the rigorous, athletic world of dance. Dancers are masters of deception, making the most daunting moves seem effortless and beautiful. Designers took cue: clothes embellished with beauty and innovative cuts are full of complexity, but they remain easy to wear. It’s beautiful function.
I was able to attend the NYCB 2013 Fall Fashion Gala and experience the power of high-fashion innovators designing for performances on stage. The performances were accompanied by short film presentations of designers explaining the difficulty of design for stage. Olivier Theyskens, Prabal Gurung and Iris van Herpen designed for three specific performance segments. I was particularly fascinated by Iris van Herpen’s meticulously scientific and precise design that consisted of paper-thin translucent plastic chips sewn onto tulle (her costume is the main photo at the top of this post). There’s obviously supreme fascination with movement that designers seem to share and want to emulate in their ready-to-wear designs!
This is all wonderful news not only for the every-day fashionista who wants to feel comfortable in her billowing gown, but also for the dance companies and dancers who want amazing new costumes for performances. It’s going to be easier for young designers to wrap their heads around designing for function since that’s where high-fashion mentality is already mulling. Having costumes on stage is also the perfect way for designers to showcase their talent through greater arcs of motion, and harness the challenges of this wide range of movement. Exciting!