Interactive: The Wife Costume by Nicholas Georgiadis for 'The Invitation', 1960


Kenneth MacMillan's ballet 'The Invitation' is set in a pre-1914 unspecified country with a sultry, humid, climate. The designs played a major part in suggesting the repressed yet sensuous society in which the sexual awakening of two adolescents takes place. The costumes had to bend historical accuracy to allow for the extremes of the choreography, which included the sensuous seduction of the boy and the violent rape of the young girl.

Georgiadis therefore worked in general terms, retaining enough touches to establish the Edwardian era (high-necked bodice, vestigal leg-of-mutton sleeves, high piled hair) while the skirt is cut with greater freedom, the diagonal cut and open side being dictated by the needs of the dancer, not the demands of the period. This costume, for character of The Wife, was worn by Anya Linden and Vergie Derman at the New Theatre, Oxford, in 1960.

The sets, painted on gauzes, and the womens' costumes in toning chiffons and lightweight fabrics, merged to create an almost out-of-focus background against which the brutality and realism of the seduction and rape stood out with heighted force.

This Edwardian-style evening dress of mid grey-blue chiffon has long sleeves and asymmetric low cut neckline filled with simulated drapery of pale lime chiffon finishing in a polo neck studded with simulated jet, turquoise and pearls. From the front drapery of the long warp-over skirt diagonally cut from mid-calf to knee length from left to right. Around the neckline is an irregular band of black coarse lace; the bodice and skirt are randomly applique with irregular motifs of the same lace. With the exception of one lace applique on the left hip, the dress is overlaid with a lighter weight grey-blue chiffon subtly spray painted in shades from ochre to dark brown and, to coincide with the black lace motifs beneath, black smudges. Seven medallions of grey-blue chiffon overlaid with lime chiffon applied to black lace neckband on top of the chiffon overlay. The costume fastens at the back by a zip fastener and hook and eye.

Museum no. S.845-1981

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