Fabrics & Embellishments: The Legend of Azyiade

It’s always exciting to begin a new costume, especially something as exotic and opulent as those worn in this short, one act ballet, with music by Rimsky-Korsakov, who also composed the music for the better-known ballet, “Scheherazade.”

The Legend of Azyiade costume“Azyiade” debuted in 1910, with Pavlova dancing the role of the innocent captive and Mikhail Mordkin the barbaric chieftain (spoiler alert, it has a happy ending). European and American fascination with “Orientalism” was in full swing, and audiences demanded over the top costumes and scenery, the more flamboyant the better. This would be a fun look for me to recreate.

I had already seen this multicolored chiffon (pictured above), shot through with silver stripes, at my favorite local fabric shop, Elfriede’s. I knew it would be perfect for Pavlova’s glittering harem pants and I could also use it for accents to Mordkin’s elaborate costume. I usually only buy a quarter of a yard or so of fabric, but I indulged in an entire yard in order to get all of the colors in this fabric—flowing from gold to orange, red and red-violet, to purple and brown (good thing: Mordkin’s turban alone took two wide diagonal lengths of the fabric, way more than I would have guessed for a one-quarter scale turban!). In a subsequent trip to Nomad Beads in Boulder, I added some irresistible beads, crystals, and sequins to my already overflowing collection back home. Then came the fun part, where I pulled out dozens of my existing fabrics and trims and paired them with my new purchases. As always happens at this point, my excitement built and I began to see clearly the direction I was headed.

I would need this initial enthusiasm to fuel me through the long hours of work ahead that would be required: developing patterns, adding and taking away original materials, stitching and re-stitiching pieces together, and the labor-intensive hand sewing of fasteners, beads, hems and edgings that always comes at the end. I sometimes have ballet music playing while I work, but more often listen to a favorite audio book. These are magical hours for me. My full-time job is walking dogs, from morning until evening, but each day I do my best to set aside a couple of hours to feed my creative soul in this delightful way.