The most often question which I receive after Les Danses Antiques performances is about the costumes. It took a lot of time, research and efforts to create our costumes. Here I would like to tell the story of my green and peach dress made by Mairi Brown.
I knew I would like to make a dress related to dance. For those interested in the subject, I created a Pinterest board containing images of dance and dancers. Finally, I found The One among the paintings in The State Russian Museum😊. The inspiration came from the Ekaterina Nelidova’s portrait by Dmitry Levitzky painted in 1773. The portrait belongs to the famous series depicting the first graduates from the Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens, first educational institution for women in Russia opened in 1764 in St Petersburg by Catherine the Great’s idea. Importantly, Nelidova depicted on the portrait dancing a minuet as Serpina, a cunning maid turned mistress from the Giovanni Pergolesi’s opera buffa La Serva Padronastaged in the Institute from 1771. Nelidova was praised for her dramatic talents and grace by her contemporaries including Denis Didrot who saw the opera at Smolny during his 6 months visit to Russia in 1773-1774. The opera was initially an intermezzo first performed in Naples in 1733. The little intermezzo became hugely popular and even led to The Querelle des Bouffons (“Quarrel of the Comic Actors”) after it was performed in Paris in 1752.
From other sources I knew that the costumes for Smolny productions were either made specially or borrowed from other theatres operated in St Petersburg. So the painting shows a stage dress for an Italian maid as it was imagined at the Institute😊
The dress is made from dupioni silk (Regal Silk Vol 3 Sea Spray from James Hare) and we had a conversation with Mairi regarding whether it was an appropriate type of silk but I just loved the colour. The jacket was based on the pattern from Patterns of Fashion 1 by Janet Arnold. The full costume contains all appropriate underwear including the stay (made partially by me and by Mairi). The finishing touch is beautiful handmade earrings made in filigree embroidery style which I found in the Museum of Wooden Architecture and Peasant Life in Suzdal. They are made by the Frolov’s Family Art School.