By the time I found myself walking into Lincoln Center yet again on day six of MB Fashion Week, I was in need of a pick-me-up -- and Zang Toi delivered. Had it not been for the runway I would have sworn I'd gone through the wrong door; here I thought I was going to watch another fashion show and instead found myself at the ballet, watching American Ballet Theatre's principal dancer Cory Stearns perform beautiful choreography en pointe. Needless to say, the audience (myself included) "ooh"-ed and "ahh"-ed before even seeing any of the collection.
Thanks to the Black Swan craze circa 2010, we've seen designers try over and over to create ballet-inspired Ready-to-Wear. This usually has the unfortunate result of girls roaming the streets like graceless ballerinas (minus a dancer's body) in tutus and corsets and feathers galore. Zang Toi has thankfully blessed us with an interpretation that's much less literal and far more on trend for 2014 in his Spring Ballet Babe collection. This latest muse actually isn't such a stretch for the designer, who's stunning evening wear designs have been described as "theatrical" on more that one occasion.
What really makes Ballet Babe work is that Zang Toi takes a theme that come with preconceived ideas of how it will/should look and then totally changes it up, applying it in subtle and unpredictable ways. Besides the standard issue black and pink, the color palette was heavy on the blues: light, navy, and cerulean. Demure broad-cut necklines and exposed backs that accentuate the collarbone and shoulder blades were just suggestive enough of the bodice of a dancer's costume. I could make the comparison between cozy cardigans and loose capelets with ballerina warm-up gear, but it was such a quiet reference that I might not have caught it had ballet not been fresh on my mind. But my favorite reference was one that stood out more clearly: black over-the-knee "leg warmers" layered over sheer black tights were simultaneously youthful and seductive, and took me back to my own days at the barre.
Ballet Babe may not have had any tutus, but it's not short on tulle. Zang Toi cleverly worked the fabric, having it innocently peek out from inside dangerously high slits in the front of some gowns and draped down the back like an ethereal train on others. It was even worked into delicate flowers that embellished waistlines and cap-sleeves.
The truth is that most of us girls can't resist the urge to channel our inner-ballerina every now and then. Thanks to Zang Toi, at least now we can actually look good doing it -- and not just in our own minds!