Fashion Icon

Anna Pavlova was almost as famous for her fashion panache as she was for her dancing. Much like the late Grace Kelly, or today’s Kate Middleton, Pavlova would be relentlessly followed by the paparazzi, while her thousands of fans on several continents eagerly awaited the latest photos of what she was wearing.

“I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me, Papa-paparazzi” – Lady Gaga

Publicity shots of her in exquisite styles by such fashion luminaries as Coco Chanel, Erté, Paul Poiret, Fortuny, and Lanvin, lent extra distinction to their names as well as her own. Despite her demanding schedule, Pavlova never appeared to her adoring public looking anything less than flawless and fabulous—even when she was just out walking her beloved dogs.

Organza & Silk Gown

Historical Information

This elegant gown of silk charmeuse and organza, trimmed in ribbon and fur, was in the double-skirted “lampshade” style of designer Paul Poiret. The huge, theatrical hat reflected Pavlova’s taste for drama in the early 1900’s. Later on, she would adopt a sleeker, simpler, shape, but nonetheless irresistibly chic!

Organza & Silk, Re-Imagined

The gown and hat recreated here were crafted from silk charmeuse, silk organza, and a silk brocade ribbon. The “lampshade” tunic was trimmed with upcycled black cross mink from a vintage stole. The handbag and hat brim are a metallic printed cotton. Adapted from a sewing pattern by Magalie Houle Dawson of MHD Designs.


Pavlova wears Mariano Fortuny

Historical Information

In 1906, Spanish designer Mariano Fortuny, patented a way to pleat delicate silk fabric, creating “The Delphos Dress”, which was modeled after ancient Greek chitons. The pleated silk fabric was so lightweight that the dress had to be weighted down with beads to stay in place. It created a sensation among society ladies as well as dancers like Isadora Duncan and Anna Pavlova. In the PBS series, “Downton Abbey”, Lady Mary wears a brilliant red Delphos Dress. Pavlova’s black version, with sleeves, was perfectly suited to her slim body and dark, dramatic coloring. Black stockings and a simple silk camisole/slip would have been the only undergarments—very risqué for that time!

Fortuny, Re-imagined

In re-imagining this fashion, I was lucky to be able to study a genuine 1910 Fortuny Delphos Dress owned by a friend. To obtain the characteristic pleated look, I soaked black silk chiffon in warm water and liquid Niagara Starch, then crinkled, folded, twisted and scrunched the wet fabric into a ball which I tied with string, After drying for several days, my one yard of fabric was so compressed that I had just enough to cut out the front and back of a very simple “T” shaped garment, leaving it long enough to “puddle” on the floor. I then stitched the shoulders and side seams by hand and attached wooden beads to the neckline, sleeves, and sides.

Fortuny’s patented pleated style has never been exactly replicated, but the popular 1970’s “broomstick” skirt (of my own youth) is another example of manipulating fabric to achieve a crinkled appearance. And more recently, Japanese designer Issey Miyake. has developed his own method to obtain his signature pleats.



A Lady in Blue

Historical Information

 

I have only seen this archival photograph in two places: One is in Margot Fonteyn’s book, “Pavlova, Portrait of a Dancer.” Its caption reads Pavlova in London in 1910 and that the photo is from “the collaborators’ collections.”Not a lot of help there. The other source is an online site from Russia, which I stumbled upon serendipitously, and contains many photos I’ve never seen anywhere else. Many of Pavlova’s belongings, including scrapbooks, photo albums, and other documents, were seized by the Soviets immediately following her death, and the rarity of this image leads me to believe that this is from that group. I also believe it was taken not in London but in St. Petersburg, and much earlier than 1910. To me, the fashion looks like an earlier style, that would have been a bit dated by 1910. Pavlova was always in up-to-the-minute style!

A Lady in Blue, Re-Imagined

Fonteyn’s book was my introduction to Anna Pavlova, and was the catalyst for the whole Pavlova Project. I always loved this particular photograph, and knew that I wanted to re-create it. I chose a beautiful navy blue slubbed silk shantung from Elfriede’s for both dress and hat, both lined in navy china silk. I’ve given the ensemble my own title: “A Lady in Blue.” (The original may have been black, charcoal, grey, or any other dark color.) The hat was made from a people-sized Buttrick pattern, the dress pattern is from Oriele of Adams-Harris. I’ve adapted this versatile pattern for other fashions in the Pavlova Project: In The Childhood in Russia Gallery, Anna’s mother wears a simplified black version of this same dress in “With Mother.” And in “A Graceful Young Lady” Anna wears an adaptation in grey and purple silk. The umbrella is from Facets Boutique. This is one of the most popular fashions in my entire collection.


Slightly Wistful

Historical Information

Innumerable publicity photos were taken of the famous dancer throughout her career. Always exquisitely dressed, she often posed with one of her many beloved dogs, who travelled with her wherever her company toured. In this lovely portrait, she poses with her dog “Poppy”, a special favorite. My title for this image comes from the words of a critic at The San Francisco Chronical who wrote: “The Incomparableis astonishingly small and slender. Her mobile, vivid face is piquant, pretty, slightly wistful.” Pavlova, moody by all accounts, perhaps consciously nurtured a public image of herself as in constant struggle between the passionate, driven danseuse, and the plaintive, almost melancholic private woman. This was, perhaps, closer to the truth than anyone could have known.

Slightly Wistful, Re-Imagined

“Piquant, pretty, slightly wistful.” These words captured my imagination when I first read them. I selected a doll from the Robert Tonner Doll Company whom I felt embodied this description. Her casually draped fur is real Siberian mink from the ebay shop of my friend Marina Shadrina and the hat, embellished by me, from ebay seller Peggy Feltrope. I made the blouse from white silk, trimmed with grey silk piping, and the skirt from a remnant of suede cloth, lined with yellow silk. Finally, I needle felted the little dog Poppy. This doll and her little dog sit on my desk as I work on this website.


By the Pond at Ivy House

Historical Information

Pavlova eagerly embraced all the latest fashions of her day, from the “pigeon” silhouettes of the late 1890’s to this 1920’s short, flapper style dress in a leopard-print chiffon. Completing the look is a felt cloche and a fur lined camel hair coat. She’s also wearing her favorite shoes.

Like all ballerinas, Pavlova was obsessed with her feet and toes. She chose fashionable but comfortable dress shoes with a low, “Louis XIV” heel secured with straps or ties. Her very favorites came from A. Argence in Paris. In his book “With Pavlova around the World,” published in 1927, music director Theodore Stier remarked: “It was a grim day for the company when …Madame was going to buy shoes…I knew I was doomed to long hours in a boot shop…”

By the Pond at Ivy House, Re-Imagined

A silk chiffon blouse in a leopard print, handed down to me from a friend, had the perfect ruffled sleeves for this flapper dress. One sleeve slipped right over the mannequin’s body, and with a few gathers, some bias binding, and a snap at the bust line, I was done! The camel hair coat was made out of wool felt left over from my camel project in the Around the World Gallery. Scraps of another leopard-print fabric, this time in larger scale and of medium-weight cotton flannel, provided the lining and lapels. The cloche pattern is the same one used for several other hats in the Pavlova Project.


In Chinchilla

Historical Information

With tongue firmly in cheek, I call images like this “the baseball cards of ballet.” These post cards were printed by the thousands and inserted in boxes of cigars and cigarettes for the men known as “balletomanes,” who collected them and vied with one another to meet and seduce the beautiful ballerinas of their day. Remember, bare arms and legs were a novelty before the 1920’s, and even safely ensconced in fur, Pavlova evoked visions of a diaphanous, lightly-clad sylph floating across the stage! Especially valued were the cards autographed by the ballerinas themselves. Still showing up occasionally on ebay, a postcard autographed by Anna Pavlova—not unlike an original baseball card signed by Babe Ruth–can sell for thousands of dollars.

In Chinchilla, Re-Imagined

This gorgeous, authentic Siberian chinchilla comes from a coat belonging to the mother of my dear friend Marina Shadrina, whose ebay store is at the top of my “favorites” list. The white lace jabot, black silk coat, and purple skirt are mere accessories to the star of the show: the spectacular silver fur used for the hat, collar, and muff. Most of us don’t wear fur anymore, but for much of human history it was a staple in cold climates like Russia, where it was plentiful and not prohibitively expensive. Even during the 1980’s, I recall the story of a friend who visited the Soviet Union and traded his Levis for a fur coat. This, of course, was strictly prohibited by the Communist regime. How he got the coat home to the USA, I don’t know, but I presume he had a second pair of jeans to wear under it, or at customs he would have surely drawn unwelcome attention to himself.

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A DANCER & HER DRESSMAKER