Costume Design: The Red Shoes (1948)

Costume Design: The Red Shoes (1948)

The Red Shoes (1948) is a stunning technicolour film directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and is regarded as one of the best British films ever made.

It follows Victoria Page (played by real life flame-haired Scottish ballerina Moira Shearer) as she joins a world-renowned ballet company and must choose between her career and love. It is based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale of the same name. It features a 17 minute fantasy ballet piece that is pure magic.

The costume and set design were done by Hein Heckroth. Moira Shearer’s non-ballet costumes were designed by Jacques Fath and Malli of London. Carven designed for Ludmilla Tchérina.  Everything had a slight fantasy-tinge and there was lots of pastel daywear. 

The red shoes themselves were striking against Moira’s muted-tone ballet costumes. Claire McCardell popularized ballet flats as everyday footwear in the early 40s as a solution during wartime restrictions.

The museum at FIT held an exhibition on ballerina fashion in 2020 highlighting the influence of ballet costumes on 20th century fashion. “Beginning in the early 1930s……… Thanks to the tremendous impact of early modern Russian dancers, a widespread and enduring craze for ballet, or “balletomania,” took hold in the west”.

The Ballet Russes collaborated with many designers including Chanel and Poiret. Couturiers like Chanel and Lanvin started creating dramatic sparkly gowns of layered tulle.

In the 1940s, American designers looked to dancers for inspiration for casual attire. Leotards, leggings and wrap cardigans started to get incorporated.

The 80s had a love affair with tutus and leg warmers. Look no further than Madonna and the influence her ballet-inspired style had on fashion at the time.

Carrie Bradshaw’s iconic SATC intro tutu from the late 90s is cemented in the annals of fashion history. 

Who can forget the adorable soft feminine wardrobe of 2010's Black Swan? 

Into the present day, the influence can still be found in athleisure fashion and TikTok’s Ballet Core trend. 

We couldn’t wrap this up without mentioning Moira’s iconic red eyeliner makeup look. This has been imitated many times in the years since including in 1982’s cult classic ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains’.


If you haven’t seen The Red Shoes, get on it!

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1 comment

I was amazed that I had never seen or heard of the movie The Red Shoes.
I love ballet, and I thought the movie was stunning.
I am 73 years old , nearly as old as the film. X

Ruth Heyward

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