Caroline Hamilton Historian

Historical Researcher

What started it all …

The Ballets Russes, and in particular their costumes, have been my passion since I was 15 years old and found an old exhibition catalogue in a second-hand bookshop.

The catalogue was from the National Gallery of Australia’s 1999 exhibition, From Russia with Love, and contained a picture of this costume for a knight from the 1910 production of Firebird. I became obsessed with this wonderful costume which had been designed by Aleksandr Golovin for The Ballets Russes.

My favourite costume of all time! NGA

I loved the relative simplicity of it and the use of a white/cream back ground. The double skirt or lampshade style also fascinated me. To me it was perfect!

In year 10 at my high school in Central Victoria – while everyone else was making cotton pj’s in textiles class –  I made and screen printed my own version of this costume!

The design for ‘My’ costume.


The Firebird remains my favourite ballet and this costume triggered my whole career!

A swan song …

The Swan  – Anna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova, b. 1881 – d. 1931 was most famous for her performance of the divertissement The Swan or The Dying Swan. The elaborate feathered tutu she wore has  always fascinated me – How was it made? Does it survive?

Several years ago I began working as a volunteer at the Museum of London which houses, amongst its vast collection, Pavlova’s Dying Swan tutu. Finally I was able to see this wonderful creation up close.

I have now traced three Dying Swan costumes in collections around the world – they are all thought to have been worn by Pavlova.

Pavlova’s costume-maker Madame Manya stated that “she [Pavlova] never wore more her Swan costume more than twice without the skirts of the tutu being renewed”. This was most likely because tarlatan and tulle were much softer and required constant stiffening.

Could this be why three costumes still exist?

1. Museum of London

This costume was given to The Museum of London in 1931, shortly after Pavlova’s death, by her manager Victor Dandré. It is a beautiful costume decorated with white and cream goose feathers. This costume is most likely the last that Pavlova wore.


The tutu is beautifully made and has a green stone set in the centre. The layered skirts are covered in small sequins.

Queen Elizabeth views The Dying Swan costume at the Pavlova Commemorative Exhibition – November 1956.

2. Bancroft Library, San Francisco

A second Dying Swan costume forms part of a large collection of historic dance costumes and ephemera, collected by Joseph Rous Paget-Fredericks b. 1903 – d.1963, and is now held at The Bancroft Library.

This gorgeous costume was on display last year at The Denver Art Museum where it formed part of the exhibition: Rhythm & Roots, Dance in American Art. This costume is very similar to that held at the MOL but has blue stones in the headdress and on the bodice.

The Paget-Fredericks Dance Collection contains roughly 2,000 original drawings, paintings, photographs and pieces of memorabilia, the majority of which date from ca. 1913 to ca. 1945.

The Pavlova costumes are on long-term loan to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco from the Joseph Rous Paget-Fredericks Dance Collection, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. Here is the link to the finding aid:


Joseph Rous Paget-Fredericks b. 1903 – d.1963 was an American artist, designer, dancer and illustrator.

His mother, Constance, was a hostess to many great dancers visiting California and a keen collector. ‘She collected theater and dance memorabilia and art and the family home was said to contain numerous souvenirs of Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, Vaslav Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova (including many of her beautiful costumes for such ballets as “Swan,” “Giselle,” “Rondino,” and “Gavotte”).’

‘The San Francisco Chronicle indicated that Paget-Fredericks was to dance with Pavlova in Berlin in the winter of 1922, and would study with Bakst in Paris following that engagement (April 23, 1922, p. D4. “Dance concert to be novel event.”)
Paget-Fredericks attended Berkeley High School and, irregularly, the University of California. His autobiographical notes indicate he attended various schools and universities in Europe and that he studied art with Leon Bakst and John Singer Sargent.
Pavlova and Bakst were said to have sponsored his first show in Paris. In 1930, Paget-Fredericks records, he was invited to serve as Art Director for Pavlova’s world tours.’
 Information from :
Joseph Rous Paget-Fredericks illustaation of Pavlova in The Swan.

3. Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra, Paris

A third costume is held at the Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra in Paris. The costume the library holds is believed to have been designed by Léon Bakst in 1907 for Pavlova.


Although very similar to the other two costumes the way the wings are set on this costume is quite different. The shoulders also appear to be decorated with a marabou style trim rather then individual feathers. I have not yet been able to trace the provenance of this costume.


You can see this costume on display now at Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra until the 5th of March 2017. The costume forms part of the exhibition Bakst: des Ballets russes à la haute couture.

A new swan …

Last year I was asked to source a replica of The Dying Swan costume for a jewellery launch at Kensington Palace Orangery. The costume I sourced was made for the production of A Portrait of Pavlova which was first performed in April 1989 by Ballet Creations. The company was founded by Richard Slaughter and Ursula Hageli with the aim to inspire audiences. The couple undertook extensive research to recreate some of her most famous, unique and well loved dances with input from former members of Pavlova’s own ballet company. The pair also recreated her costumes in astonishing detail.

The Dying swan costume had been beautifully made but had been stored in an attic for many years. I restored the costume, replacing many of the feathers on the bodice and steaming out ones on the wings. I was very happy with the result – I hope Pavlova would have been too!

The replica of Anna Pavlova’s Dying Swan tutu on display in December 2016.

Ballet Dolls

Since I was a teenager I have loved the idea of the making dolls dressed as characters from famous ballets. Last year I began making a small range of dolls and characters which I sell through my etsy shop, I also take custom orders:



Sylph doll inspired by Les Sylphides.



Doll inspired by Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes.



Doll inspired by New Adventures’ The Red Shoes.


Odette and Odile, black and white swans from Swan Lake.


History at the Hammond

I am currently working as researcher and historian for The Hammond Performing Arts School in Chester, UK. In 2017 the school is set to celebrate 100 years since it’s founder Miss Irene Hammond came to Chester. My role is to research the history of the school and  Hoole Bank House (where the school is now housed). I am also trying to gather as many memories from past students as possible.

When I began the school knew little about it’s rich history. My research has so far taken me to all manner of sources from Newspaper archives and the Chester regional records office to the archives of the RAD.

I am posting daily updates from my research on the new Facebook Centenary Page and the Hammond History Blog.

Here are a few insights:

The Hammond School

The first advert for Miss Hammond’s dance school in Chester.
June 1933
Miss Hammond’s students in 1933

Hoole Bank House

Hoole Bank Estate in 1869
The 1901 Census showing the Hayes family and their servants living at Hoole Bank Estate.
The House was run as a Red Cross Hospital from 1914 – 1919
Hoole Bank House was a YHA hostel from 1952 -1962

Carlotta Edwards – Collecting Vintage Ballet

Symphonie Fastastique en Couleur

The 1950s saw an explosion of all things ballet in popular culture.

One of the most prominent artists was Carlotta Edwards (1894 – 1977). Edwards was the daughter of the French painter Ferdinand Pourrier. Her ballet scenes once graced the bedrooms of little girls (and big) all over England but were very popular in Australia and New Zealand. Edwards appears to have based most of her pictures on photographs of popular British dancers.

The Nutcracker

Carlotta Edwards Swan Lake

Edwards paintings were released as framed prints as well as on trays, place-mats, puzzles, clocks and many other novelty items.

These items can still be found at charity shops, car-boot sales, in vintage shops and online. I have a range of Edwards designs currently on my etsy shop – The Red Shoes Vintage.


English manufactures, Win-El-Ware, launched a range of coasters and place-mats featuring Edwards designs.


These coasters show six scenes from the Sadler’s Wells Ballet/Royal Ballet: Giselle, Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Symphonie Fantastique en Couleur and Don Quixote.


The six place-mats show five Sadler’s Wells Ballet/Royal Ballet ballerinas:

Margot Fonteyn in Giselle and Firebird
Nadia Nerina in La Fille Mal Gardée
Alicia Markova most likely in Don Quixote
Beryl Grey most likely in The Lady and the Fool
Svetlana Beriosova in an unknown ballet

Tray (8)

A gorgeous tray featuring a scene from the ballet Giselle.


Two treasures of The Russian Ballet at ABT


The beautiful Metropolitan Opera House

American Ballet Theatre this season is presenting two ballets from the bright and colourful canon of the Ballets Russes and Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo.

The poster for the Golden Cockerel

On the 6th of June ABT opened The Golden Cockerel, a reworked version of the popular 1937 production created for the Royal Danish Ballet in 2012.

Please see my article on the production’s history 

Poster for The Sleeping Princess outside the Metropolitan Opera House.

On the 27th ABT will open there new production of The Sleeping Beauty, based on the Ballets Russes 1921 production and created last year.

I had the pleasure of working on both of these gorgeous productions as researcher. It was lovely to see the posters for  both of these productions side by side.

The Golden Cockerel Flies Again

13-09-2012 12;23;26
© Det Kongelige Theater 2012

In 2011 I had the great opportunity to work with designer Richard Hudson on a reinterpretation of The Golden Cockerel for The Royal Danish Ballet. My role was to research the original productions from 1914 and 1937, produced by the Ballets Russes and Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. Hudson and choreographer Alexei Ratmansky then used the research to create new designs and choreography based on the original designs by Natalia Goncharova and choreography by Mikhail Fokine.

My reseach - coq d'or 3
Some images from my research in the costume workshop taken by Shelby Elsbree, 2012
My reseach - coq d'or
Some images from my research in the costume workshop taken by Shelby Elsbree, 2012

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to study some of the original costumes as part of my research. They really were quite beautiful! The costumes for the 1937 production were made by Barbara Karinska in London (she later moved to NYC were she became an important collaborator with George Balanchine).

Detail from the costume of one of King Dodon’s subjects – copyright National Gallery of Australia.
Detail from the costume of one of King Dodon’s subjects – copyright National Gallery of Australia.

The new ballet opened in Copenhagen in September 2012 and was an amazing riot of colour. Excitingly this year American Ballet Theatre will be re-staging this production – with some alterations by Ratmansky.

The ballet opens at the Met on the 6th of June.

I am really looking forward to seeing this production again, not least for the sumptuous costumes and set!

13-09-2012 12;09;51
© Det Kongelige Theater 2012

Costume Society

Here is my latest blog for The Costume Society. This is the first part of an article looking at the techniques that survive in the Theatre, Opera and Ballet industry.




The Age of the Balletomane


In the wake of The Red Shoes film the 1950s saw all things to do with ballet become the height of vogue. Wallpaper and curtains, to clocks, scarves and compacts were all embellished with ballet motifs!

In 1956 Beswick pottery launched a range of ballet themed china . At first named Ballet the range was later renamed Pavlova and was in production until 1961. Ballet is a very cute pattern and perfect for any balletomane.  This china is quite hard to find these days but pieces do turn up on ebay and etsy.

I have recently started a shop on etsy specialising in ballet books, china and collectables from the 1930s – 1960s. I have quite a few beswick pieces for sale.

Please have a look at my shop: TheRedShoesVintage


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