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Retro collection from Zidans for the series "Ballet"

Published 29.06.2023, author Zidans

Most leotards for ballet in the 80s in the Soviet Union were very similar to one another. To stand out, the artists had to be creative about modifying the leotards and making them at least a little unique."

Seven episodes of the first season of the series "Ballet" by Evgeny Sangadzhiev have already been released. Zidans co-founder Lilia Kosyreva helped with the costume design and production for the ballet scenes.

The main action takes place in modern times, but there are significant episodes where events take place in the 80s. At that time, clothes, including dancewear, had noticeable differences in patterns and fabrics. The creation technologies were not as advanced, and the Iron Curtain in Russia limited access to imported materials and foreign clothing.


Lilia Kosyreva: “Costume designer Natalia Turovnikova asked me to send ideas and eventually invited me as a costume designer assistant. I made mood boards, and figured out how to show different periods, including with the help of accessories.”

Natalia Turovnikova, costume designer for the Ballet series: “I've heard a lot about Zidans from my friends from the ballet world. We have been close friends with the guys from the Bolshoi Theater for a long time. After Lilia wrote to me, my colleague Yulia Chikanakova and I arranged a meeting to get to know Lilia. Her [Lilia's] professionalism in making dancewear turned out to be the missing link. Lilia is passionate about ballet and understands the intricacies and undersides of this big deal. We shared our initial ideas, and she developed them in more detail. Lilia's presentation was a special masterpiece! There were notes in the margins about very subtle points typical of the 80s in Russia, and even those that were noticeable only for real enthusiasts of their field".


Lilia Kosyreva: “I used photos of Russian ballet from the 80s as references. It was difficult to guess the color of the items because most of the pictures were black and white. According to the video and photo materials of that time, most leotards for ballet in the 80s in the Soviet Union were very similar to one another. To stand out, the artists had to be creative about modifying the leotards and making them at least a little unique. They were all the same: low necklines, low-cut leotards themselves. They didn't fit well.

I looked for inspiration in the photographs of Maya Plisetskaya, Ekaterina Maksimova, Lyudmila Semenyaka, and teacher Maria Ulanova.

Photos of Natalia Makarova, whose story resonates with the story in the series, Margot Fonteyn, who danced in the Royal Ballet (UK) (Rudolf Nureyev's constant partner after his relocation from the USSR - Wikipedia) inspired and gave food for thought. Fonteyn was known for her vibrant looks, including on the stage.

Through acquaintances, I asked ballet dancers who danced in the 80s what kind of ballet shoes they had, what kind of tights, whether or not there were inner linings in leotards, whether there really were such low necklines, whether the leotards were really made of cotton.

I watched the films "Duet" (1973), and "Fuete" (1986), documentaries.

As a result, we’ve designed  and produced men's and women's leotards and unitards for episodes set in Moscow in the 80s.”

Natalia Turovnikova: “We considered in detail the fit of panties and bodysuits in the past, decoration elements of the actresses.  There were principal dancers who could travel abroad and corps de ballet dancers ... In general, someone could afford lycra, someone could not. We also referred to the film "Fuete" with Ekaterina Maximova. We were inspired by it - I specifically studied how the mass scenes artists were dressed."

Lilia Kosyreva talks about the life hacks of ballet dancers of that time:

“Ballet dancers were forced to come up with ways to make their leotards a little bit special. For example, rubber bands were used to make a pinch on the chest. Now there are many ways to make such pinches due to a variety of materials and processing methods. It’s done beautifully: hidden in the lining so that it doesn’t stick out. Based on photographs and stories of ballet dancers from the past, all of this had to be handmade, and the result was different. We experimented, and tried different elastics and hand stitches, to achieve different effects and choose the most suitable one for the film.

An interesting fact came up: in those years there was a real skill to know ways of darning ballet shoes. Girls and boys could darn a pair dozens of times.”

We asked Lilia how the fabrics and technologies used for the vintage collection differ from those used for the modern Zidans collection.

“In terms of fabric selection, Zidans materials are always tested for durability and color loss, stretching potential, and everything else. We sew leotards from modern biflex fabric: it dries quickly, does not deform, does not fade, and is elastic and durable. For the series, we used other fabrics, which were as close as possible to those from which they sewed in the 80s.: cotton with the addition of elastane, and biflex (polyester with elastane). Here, due to the fact that a different meaning was originally intended, the fabric was not tested for any of the above characteristics. There are 20-25 items made specifically for the series, and you can’t find them anywhere else.”

Zidans clothing from the current collection was used for those episodes of the series that take place in modern times. You can see ballet dancers taking part in auditions and rehearsing in our models 2 Sleeves leotard, T-leotard, Raglan Zip T-leotard, Zip top, Rashguard t-shirt, men's Biker shorts, Simple sauna-pants.

Lilia Kosyreva: “Participation in the filming is a good opportunity for both me and Zidans. I've got a new lens for looking at clothes through the eyes of a costume designer. I've got this experience looking at Natalia and her assistants.

Even more important, when I met the director, I realized that he had a goal to convey something more than the sugary pink picture that people like to associate with ballet. And I was really curious about what would come of it.”

Stay tuned, we will talk more about our participation in the creation of the "Ballet" series! Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter, so you don’t miss article announcements and other Zidans news.

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