Since closing his legendary couture house a decade ago, Christian Lacroix has returned to his first passion: costume. Two years ago he was approached by Benjamin Millepied, a celebrated choreographer who was then Director of Dance at the Opéra National de Paris (and who is also married to actress Natalie Portman). Millepied invited him to apply his signature opulence to its new staging of George Balanchine’s ballet interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was a match made in fairyland, and after months of intricate work on 200-plus outfits, the lavish production opened on March 9.
As the dancers pirouette and plié across the stage, it’s hard to imagine the labor required to create the magical effects. A team of 70—all artisans of the Palais Garnier’s historic ateliers—spent 10,000 hours sewing over 400 meters of tulle and hand-applying nearly a million Swarovski crystals. Tutus, lace corsetry, and hand-pleated chiffon bodices were embellished with beads and pearls. Glittering butterfly wings were created using delicate organza adorned with a bespoke crystal motif in three blue hues. Fancy stones shone from 90 crowns, tiaras and hair ornaments, and silver lamé panels were veiled with ivory tulle.
In fact, quality and attention to detail was apparent with every exquisite movement—from the floral lace by Sophie Hallette (who made the lace for Kate Middleton’s gown for her marriage to Prince William), to the precise positioning of the wings. A dancer must be able to move uninhibited by her costume, so the final designs were executed to the very millimeter. The George Balanchine Trust also has strict rules on the use of fabrics in any production that uses George Balanchine’s choreography; as the father of American ballet, the legendary maestro had strong opinions on what materials best express movement. However, these were challenges perfectly suited to Christian Lacroix, a designer who has always been synonymous with conspicuously sumptuous, high-end craftsmanship.
Paris Fashion Week may have wrapped for another season, but there remains plenty of eye candy for lovers of sensational design. If you aren’t fortunate enough to bag a ticket for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, then check out the Paris Opera’s online platform, 3ème Scène: it’s a celebration of dance and opera, showcasing the most original and exciting work from the industry’s leading artists.
There will be twelve performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from March 9–29 at the Opéra Bastille in Paris.