Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wednesday Weekly Wishlist: Les Chaussons Verts

Seeing all the Russian Ballet dancers last Sunday has given me the perfect excuse to introduce this next Wishlist item: Île costume from Les Chaussons Verts. Let me explain: Les Chaussons Verts is a novel 1956 by French author Saint-Marcoux and illustrated by G. De Sainte-Croix. It tells of Michèle, a young girl from the Île Saint-Louis in Paris and her story as a Ballerina, first of the renowned Opéra de Paris, and then with an independent production.. It is an obscure book, I know (although it won two literature prize – the Prix Montyon de Littérature de l’Académie Française and the Grand Prix Littéraire du Salon de l’Enfance 1952), but my mom read it when she was a young girl, and I’ve loved it since I was a child.

SAINT-MARCOUX, Les Chaussons Verts (Michèle des Îles), Bibliothèque Rouge et Or, Paris, 1956, 183 pages.

At one point in the story, Michèle plays the role of the little Isle in a fictional ballet called "Les Nuées". Here are references to her costume:

"Habillées d’algues vertes, Sonia et Michèle ressemblaient à des sirènes ondoyantes, échappées su fleuve proche… "

(Dressed in green seaweeds, Sonia and Michèle looked like swaying mermaids escaped from the nearby river…)

"…César lui attachait prestement la dernière agrafe du maillot couvert d’algues brillantes…"

…César was tying the last hook of the bodice covered in brilliant seaweed…)

"…la Petite Île habillée d’algues vertes…"

(…the Little Isle dressed in green seaweed…)

SAINT-MARCOUX, Les Chaussons Verts (Michèle des Îles), Bibliothèque Rouge et Or, Paris, 1956, pages 146-147.

And the last night she dances, she adds an old rusted ring to her headdress (a childhood keepsake) and she wears the green slippers, which gave the book its name. These are emerald green ballet slippers embroidered with gold and silver threads and covered in faux-jewels.

I want to make that costume. I have wanted to make it since I was nine. But with so little description to go on, how do you do it? I imagine I would make the bodice out of green sequined fabric, but the seaweed skirt ant headdress is a whole other puzzle.

SAINT-MARCOUX, Les Chaussons Verts (Michèle des Îles), Bibliothèque Rouge et Or, Paris, 1956, page 171.

My original thought, even though the illustration shows a white tutu skirt, was to make a skirt out of lengths of organza no more than 10 cm wide with overlocked edges, but research I recently made about tutus has convinced me to make a proper one, using layers of tulle in different green and teal tones. Besides, a mermaid-like ballet costumes in the 50’s would not have been the same as one today (think of The Little Mermaid Ballet presented in the 1952 movie Hans Christian Andersen).

Here are two green Tutus made by other that I might use as inspiration:

Green Silk, by The Costume Lady

In this case, I love the softness of the green and the effet of the silk used for the bodice.

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine's Emeralds
(Choreography by George Balanchine copyright, The Balanchine Trust, photo copyright by Erik Tomasson)

Here I love the bright green and layered effect of the skirt.

As for the ballet slippers, I would have to get a pair of pointes, get them dyed emerald green and then decorate them myself.

Ah! I wish I could add Ballet to my repertoire!

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