The Lure of Perfection: Fashion and Ballet, 1780-1830

By Judith Chazin-Bennahum

Calling all fashionistas and dance lovers!

Discover how contemporary fashions and costuming for ballet influenced each other in this unique and accessible look at fashion, social trends and early developments in dance. During the 18th century, women literally took up twice as much space as men, their billowing dresses ballooning out from their figures, sometimes to a full 55 inches. At the same time, movements were inhibited by heeled shoes and tight corsets, shaping how women danced both on and off the stage.

Chazin-Bennahum’s book charts how these cumbersome fashions were abruptly swept away after the French Revolution, and how new trends in dress influenced the Romantic aesthetic and technical possibilities of ballet. From revealing Grecian attire to the Taglioni corset, this is the story of the surprising – and sometimes scandalous – lengths to which dancers and the fashion-conscious have gone to lace and loosen, lengthen and strengthen their bodies to perfection.

This well-research text will interest students of dance, cultural history, and women’s studies. With its attention to events in France and the origins of accessories like the tutu and pointe shoe, it will interest anyone curious to explore ballet’s history through the lens of fashion.

See a preview of the book’s front matter on Google Books.

Routledge, first published 2004. Hardback, paperback and Kindle, 304 pages.


Table of Contents


Chapter 1 – Setting the Stage
Chapter 2 – Reformers and Philosophes as Forerunners of the Revolution in Fashion
Chapter 3 – The Moderate and the Outrageous
Chapter 4 – Neoclassicism
Chapter 5 – The Consulate (1799-1804) and the Empire (1804-1815) of Napoléon
Chapter 6 – Restoration – One Bourbon Returns!
Chapter 7 – Pale Goddesses on the Street During the Romantic Movement
Chapter 8 – The Kingdom of the Opera
Chapter 9 – The Turning Point
Chapter 10 – The Dark Side of White