Costume for La Perlouse in Le Train Bleu thumbnail 1
Costume for La Perlouse in Le Train Bleu thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto

Costume for La Perlouse in Le Train Bleu

Theatre Costume
1924 (made)
Artist/Maker

Costume created by Chanel for Lydia Sokolova as La Perlouse in Le Train Bleu, a deliberately contemporary ballet which reflected current attitudes to sports and fashionable seaside holidays. It is typical of life-style modernism presented by choreographer Bronislava Nijinska and the Ballets Russes in the mid-1920s. it was described as an ‘operette dansée’ and the music is deliberately light-hearted. Milhaud was commissioned to write the score in the style of Offenbach (a nineteenth century composer of operetta) incorporating the rhythms of popular songs while avoiding quotations from such songs. The score provided easy listening and was unchallenging for an audience. It was Jean Cocteau’s last direct involvement with Diaghilev’s company and his libretto was necessarily simplified to make the ballet work in dance terms. The acrobatic nature of the work was inspired by Anton Dolin who was the star of production.

Lydia Sokolova, who noted that Le Train Bleu was ‘very topical’ and ‘great fun while it lasted’ described the evolution of her costume in her autobiography, Dancing for Diaghilev, p.221: ‘I was a bathing-belle in a dashing pink hand-knitted costume. Leon [Woizokowsky who played the golfer dressed in the style of the Prince of Wales] discovered me in a bathing hut with two metres of pink georgette round my shoulders. Relieving me of this garment, which was typical of the period, he took a good look at me, put his pipe in his pocket, and danced with me in the famous Train Bleu waltz. He then had to throw me up spinning in the air, then catch me as I came down, and I cannot imagine how we never came to grief, because my woollen costume was impossible to grip.

When I tried on my pink bathing dress, which we all thought very daring, the question of what I was to wear on my head arose. Three women stood around me binding my long hair with various pieces of material, until at last the decided on dark suede. The neat little skull cap they made for me set a fashion. I could not decide on what shoes to wear, and eventually settled in a pair of little rubber slippers which women wore bathing in those days, and which were most uncomfortable to dance in.’ The final element of the costume was ‘large pearl stud earrings’ which Sokolova complained ‘‘were very smart but so heavy that they pulled at my ears and made it hard for me to hear the music’. Chanel had created new ‘pearls’ that were made of china coated with wax. The earrings are in the Harvard Theatre Collection. The costume pallet for Le Train Bleu was subdued in brown, grey, pink, blue and black. According to Cyril Beaumont ‘the costumes – mostly woollen bathing suits – were uninteresting’.



Object details

Categories
Object type
TitleCostume for La Perlouse in Le Train Bleu (generic title)
Materials and techniques
knitted wool, silk tapes crepe de chine
Brief description
Costume designed by Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel for Lydia Sokolova as La Perlouse in Nijinska's ballet Le Train Bleu for Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes 1924.
Physical description
Cyclamen-pink, hand-knitted 1920s style sleeveless one-piece bathing costume with short overskirt and attached shorts in pink with black and white bands on overskirt and legs.
Dimensions
  • Display footprint height: 158cm
  • Display footprint width: 60cm
  • Display footprint depth: 45cm
Credit line
Given by the Friends of the Museum of the Performing Arts
Object history
Purchased by the Friends of the Museum of the Performing Arts at Sotheby's Sale of Costumes and Curtains from Diaghilev and De Basil Ballets at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 19 December 1969 (lot 91) and given by them to the V&A.

Exhibited in the V&A's exhibition, Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 2010-11 and on tour.
Summary
Costume created by Chanel for Lydia Sokolova as La Perlouse in Le Train Bleu, a deliberately contemporary ballet which reflected current attitudes to sports and fashionable seaside holidays. It is typical of life-style modernism presented by choreographer Bronislava Nijinska and the Ballets Russes in the mid-1920s. it was described as an ‘operette dansée’ and the music is deliberately light-hearted. Milhaud was commissioned to write the score in the style of Offenbach (a nineteenth century composer of operetta) incorporating the rhythms of popular songs while avoiding quotations from such songs. The score provided easy listening and was unchallenging for an audience. It was Jean Cocteau’s last direct involvement with Diaghilev’s company and his libretto was necessarily simplified to make the ballet work in dance terms. The acrobatic nature of the work was inspired by Anton Dolin who was the star of production.

Lydia Sokolova, who noted that Le Train Bleu was ‘very topical’ and ‘great fun while it lasted’ described the evolution of her costume in her autobiography, Dancing for Diaghilev, p.221: ‘I was a bathing-belle in a dashing pink hand-knitted costume. Leon [Woizokowsky who played the golfer dressed in the style of the Prince of Wales] discovered me in a bathing hut with two metres of pink georgette round my shoulders. Relieving me of this garment, which was typical of the period, he took a good look at me, put his pipe in his pocket, and danced with me in the famous Train Bleu waltz. He then had to throw me up spinning in the air, then catch me as I came down, and I cannot imagine how we never came to grief, because my woollen costume was impossible to grip.

When I tried on my pink bathing dress, which we all thought very daring, the question of what I was to wear on my head arose. Three women stood around me binding my long hair with various pieces of material, until at last the decided on dark suede. The neat little skull cap they made for me set a fashion. I could not decide on what shoes to wear, and eventually settled in a pair of little rubber slippers which women wore bathing in those days, and which were most uncomfortable to dance in.’ The final element of the costume was ‘large pearl stud earrings’ which Sokolova complained ‘‘were very smart but so heavy that they pulled at my ears and made it hard for me to hear the music’. Chanel had created new ‘pearls’ that were made of china coated with wax. The earrings are in the Harvard Theatre Collection. The costume pallet for Le Train Bleu was subdued in brown, grey, pink, blue and black. According to Cyril Beaumont ‘the costumes – mostly woollen bathing suits – were uninteresting’.

Collection
Accession number
S.836-1980

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Record createdJuly 1, 2009
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