From some of the world's most prestigious stages to the runways showcasing the most influential fashion designers, ballet has been inspiring fashion houses for nearly a century.

"Thanks to the influx of Russian talent coming to the west in the 19-teens and 20s, it really sowed the seeds for a kind of love and craze for ballet or balletomania," said Patricia Mears. "It was at that time that couturiers for the first time started to look at classical ballet for influence."

Mears is the curator of "Ballerina: Fashion's Modern Muse," a new exhibit at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) that explores the connection between the two art forms.

It features more than 90 objects, most of them from the 1930s to the 1980s, considered the golden age of ballet's influence on fashion, from costumes created by influential New York City Ballet designer Barbara Karinska to tutu-inspired gowns by designers like Yves Saint Laurent.

"Chanel, Lanvin, as well as post-war designers like Pierre Balmain and Christian Dior," Mears said. "They were all influenced throughout the 20th century. And you see it in their beautiful couture ball gowns made of tulle, with fitted stain bodices."

Ballet still influences designs today, not just in haute couture, but also in everyday fashions.

"The revitalization of trends that started decades ago have really had a rebirth," Mears said. "So again, leotards, the whole athleisure movement, is really based a lot on dancewear."

Ballet's biggest influence by far, though, was the flat-heeled slipper, which revolutionized footwear for women during World War II, and continues to be a popular trend today.

"Ballet has infiltrated all aspects of fashion and it looks like it's here to stay," Mears said.

The exhibit is on display at the Museum of FIT through April 18 and is free to the public.

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