In 1924 Sergei Diaghilev, founder of the Ballets Russes, produced Le Train Bleu, “a ballet combining acrobatics, satire of the period, and pantomime.” (Chanel and Her World, Edmounde Charles -Roux, p. 206) His ballets were avant-garde and he imbued his productions with the works of other avant-garde artists of the time including Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Léon Bakst, Giorgio de’ Chirico, Jean Cocteau, Joan Miró, and Coco Chanel. (Diaghilev and the lasting style of the Ballets Russes, Kate Salter, Telegraph)
Coco Chanel created the costumes for Le Train Bleu, a ballet that brought together tennis players, golf champions and sun bathers searching for adventure. Diaghilev’s direction for the costumes, as given by Cocteau stated: “Instead of trying to remain this side of the ridiculous in life, to com to terms with it, I would push beyond. What am I looking for? To be truer than true.” (Chanel and Her World, Edmounde Charles -Roux, p. 215) Chanel in fact had made a name for herself for shunning the traditional dress of the early twentieth century, which she felt was too costumey. Rather than designing costumes for Le Train Bleu, Chanel dressed the dancers in actual sports clothes from her collection. She didn’t attempt to veil reality, but instead, brought it to life.
Chanel’s creationst for the Ballets Russes’ Le Train Bleu can be viewed now at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, an exhibit featuring the costumes of the Ballet. I wish I could see this collection for myself. The costumes show wear and tear from repeated used in performances and don’t have much life in them. (Diaghilev and the lasting style of the Ballets Russes, Kate Salter, Telegraph) If you are, or will be, in London, this is a definite must see!
All Images: Chanel and Her World, Edmounde Charles -Roux