It appears that The Black Swan movie influence is spreading more and more its wings. After being literally invaded by fashion magazine’s trend pages worldwide since the end of november, the Swan’s theme is here to stay, last year was just the beginning.

I’ve never heard so much the ballet music latelly – in stores, on the street, radio, in cofee shops… even if I keep playing Thom Yorke’s Black Swan while writting these lines.

And let’s focus less on the celebrity stories that surround the movie, Nathalie’s Oscar chances or Milla’s private life

I felt I should look towards something more inspiring: a behind the scenes snapshot of how the Swan costumes were created. I always found these stories far more interesting. The dresses were remarkable and really caught my eye.

Swan Lake is one of the most produced ballets in the world but I haven’t seen since a very long time such creations : modern, romantic and perfectly aestethic within the confines of the script.

Knowing that Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte designed the sequin – feathered costumes and together with Amy Westcott the credited costume designer for the movie, the stylish unity of the film is notable as far as the costumes are concerned.

Darren Aronofsky is well known for his precision of detail and the visual result of his works. For the two Mulleavy sisters who drew inspiration for clothing watching Cary Grant movies, working for his movie was a perfect project. Nathalie Portman introduced the sisters, friends of hers, to the director who, like the sisters, had always shared a common creative universe: ballet & a fascination for horror movies. Apparently the sense of perfectionism & aesthetic beauty they all strived for made a very productive meeting. Along with costume designer Westcott, Aronofsky wanted a contemporary style that allows designs and visuals to re-create the ballet. «We wanted to reinvent the whole sense of ‘Swan Lake’» he said.

The real work for Laura & Kate started in October, the same time as their Fall/ Winter 2010-11 collection and the exhibition «Quicktake: Rodarte» at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. The pressure was really intense and time was short. It would seem that they would never have enough time to draft out all their ideas let alone producing results. First elaborate sketches for every idea needed refining, then producing and bringing into reality more than 40 pieces from November to January. For all costumes to be ready meant an incredible amount of hard work, tenacity and a strong will.

Nina’s cocktail dress and Black Swan (Odille) costume

White Swan (Odette) costume
Von Rothbart costume

Laura admits that her favorite final creation was Nina’s practice tutu, inspired by the Degas ballerinas and created by using several layers of tulle in different colours from pale pink to dark shades of grey, it was the perfect example of “graceful beauty”.

Laura and her favorite piece, the practice tutu

… and lots of tul layers under!

... waiting in front of the mirror

Darren Aronofsky and Nathalie Portman featuring the famous practice tutu

The most important costume was obviously the Black Swan costume, realized with metal and Swarovski cristals and combined with a net created for the head. As Aronovsky said he wanted to show the costumes to connect from the audiences point of view, the sisters created the costumes as functional objects with all elements you can usually see on classical tutu’s (straps, complex hooks and eyes) being hidden. But beauty and style were sometimes more important than functionality.

The Swan busts, very ornate, embroidered and heavy, had no straps and kept slipping all the time.

Undoubtedly Rodarte produced ambitious yet striking and highly original works, very appreciated by the public and by the specialists.
I adored it and was surprised to see how far they could take things as fashion designers. But as the costumes for The Swan Lake are credited to Amy Westcott, many people outside the world of fashion don’t know that Laura & Kate did a lot of work.
Do they have chances for an Oscar even if they are in competition with two «heavyweight» costume designers : Sandy Powell with 3 Oscars already and 24 nominations ( The Young Victoria, The Aviator, Shakespeare in love and nominated for Mrs Hendersons Presents, Guns of New York, Velvet Goldmine, Orlando) and Coleen Atwood with 2 Oscars and 29 nominations (Memoirs of a Geisha, Chicago and nominated for Nine, Sweeney Todd, Sleepy Hollow, Beloved )?
Time will tell….. until then, I think throughout this coming summer and into next winter we will probably see and still have a lot of Swan like style to enjoy. And I’ll continue listening to Thom Yorke’s song for a new kind of Black Swan chassing memories of dance classes.