From the beginning of movement, clothing adapted and adorned for dancing or movement activity became the basis of ‘dancewear’, and even some of what is seen today in the twenty-first century.
Early traditional ballet, dating as far back as the 1800s saw courtly influences of much longer skirts than are seen today in terms of tutus, and satin ballet slippers for females. Similarities in footwear, as well as that of males dressing in tights and long-sleeved shirts with occasional jackets, demonstrate the loyalty dance has to its originators in some cases, and how practical the first strands and instances of dance were.
The mid-1800s saw choreographer of La Sylphide August Bournonville designing the ballet slippers for males that are still worn today with a V-shaped vamp to give the illusion of a long and pointed foot. The Romantic tutu also gave an appearance, but under another name primarily.
Today, the traditional ballet style has been adopted and brought into the fashion world with ballet pumps for every day wear, tutu style skirts and the highest of top knots as ‘on trend’ hairstyles. Even celebrities are making ballet cool – see Eva Mendes and Rhianna snapped in sleek hair and a ballet tutu.
The 1890s saw the emergence of Jazz dance, and it became increasingly popular, taught in numerous dance studios and appearing in Broadway and musical comedies. Costumes were experimented with, open to more adventurous design work and also more practical, highlighting the dancers’ lines in addition to looking effective and eye-catching. Every Winter, we see the latest sequined dressed out for Christmas parties, bling on the jewellery stands and sky scraper heels getting higher and higher every season.
Modern dance, now known as contemporary dance, developed as a result of Isadora Duncan’s rejection of the tight bodices of the tutus of classical ballet in favour of Greek-style tunics, sometimes even bare-chested. She believed tight clothing was a restriction to the body’s natural movement and to this day we see this trend, especially those in the hip hop world. How often do you see the likes of JLo and Nicole Sherzinger working out in a baggy tunic, loose clothing or harem pants?
Moving into the mid-1900s, leotards were also designed further, introducing more styles to the markets and becoming the basis of the wide variety of choice available today. Leotards were given the ability to stretch, in addition to ballet tights becoming more comfortable. Katy Perry in that catsuit? We all remember that!
So the answer to the question, ‘when did dance wear become cool?, is that it always has. People make fashion from fashion and will continue to do so time and time again!
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