Section 7: Barbara Karinska
Barbara Karinska (born Varvara Jmoudsky) had arguably the greatest impact on the balletic silhouette in the 20th century. Among her many innovations in costuming, Karinska was the creator of the powder puff tutu, a skirt that replaced the metal structure of the traditional pancake tutu with a softer, more fluid line that created greater range of motion for the dancer. She accomplished this with a proprietary technique of layering and cutting tulle to create a similar line to the standard tutu, but infinitely more flattering to the body.
A great beauty in her day, Karinska had an eventful life that saw her move from Russia to France, then England, and eventually the U.S. She was a collaborator with some of the most renowned artists of her time, including Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and Jean Cocteau, and won an Oscar for her work on the film Joan of Arc in 1948. However, it is for her partnership with Balanchine that she is best remembered. A Ford Foundation grant enabled Balanchine to make Karinska his costume designer in residence, and they worked together until their deaths in 1983. Of Karinska, Balanchine once famously said, "I attribute to her 50 percent of the success of my ballets to those that she has dressed.”