Weekly Style Muse: Isadora Duncan, Free Dancer

by Freyia Lilian Porteous

Last week, I spoke about my love for the majorly stylish and beautifully minded erotic writer Anais Nin, and this week my Style Muse is another historical beauty: Dancer Isadora Duncan. With a penchant for the morbidly beautiful, I first developed my fascination with Duncan at about seven years old, when my dad told me she died by getting strangled by her signature long, wispy scarves, when they caught in the wheels of a fancy convertible. (I was interested in creepy stuff as a child!) There are many mixed stories about Isadora's life — she was a master of spinning a yarn to shroud her personal life in mystery (even managing to convince everyone that her poverty stricken mother ate nothing but oysters and champagne during her pregnancy), but from what is known, I admire her Phoenix-like attitude. Her life took some serious downward spirals (her family lost all their money in her early life; she was exiled from the USA for her Socialist beliefs; and she lost all three of her children in incredibly tragic ways), but her creative spark was never extinguished. She always carried on. Isadora's rebellious attitude to life and dance left a legacy in her field, and inspired both fashion and fine art. She actively rejected the rigidity of traditional dance types, creating her own style that emphasized bodily freedom. Barefoot, she unleashed Ballet from its corsets and pointe shoes, creating a modern dance movement that influenced choreographers such as Pina Bausch years later. Duncan's self confidence and absolute faith in herself — and her creative abilities — is something I strive to emulate. Sartorially, and in my design work, her comfortable attitude to clothing (and love of the female form in its natural state) is something that I find an inspiration. I hate to wear clothes that feel constricting, and Isadora Duncan was the champion of doing comfort stylishly!

To channel your inner dancer, take a peek at these pretty pieces.

The Bodily Jewelry

"You were once wild here. Don't let them tame you."

Hand Amulet Necklace, $102,

Hand and Diamond Bangle, $116,

Protective Hand Bangle, $80, Isadora Duncan is hardly pictured wearing jewelry — except for a few images that depict her in her younger years wearing more traditional dance costumes. Otherwise, her personal style was very minimal. However, these delicate, bodily-inspired pieces by Datter Industries echo Duncan's love of physical freedom, and mirror the beautiful movements she made with her expressive hands in her dances. Each piece by Datter is cast from had carved wax and made to order.

The Silk Skirt

"The dancer's body is simply the luminous manifestation of the soul."

Silk Skirt, $79, Base Range aim to create a "basic aesthetic for sustainable easywear" and this slouchy, elasticated waist skirt is both delicate and comfortable — just like Isadora Duncan's loose and refined costumes. This luxury piece allows for easy movement, whilst still looking beautifully exquisite.

The Sheer Dress

"What mattered in Isadora's Hellenic dances was not the Greek themes or the gauzy costumes, but the uninhibited vitality, the sense of a glorious nakedness." — Lewis Mumford

Nude Silk Dress, $168,

Seduce Me Gown, $346,

Isadora Duncan was all about being brave in her body, and often wore see through drapes on stage inspired by Greek classical sculpture. She scandalously got her boobs out on stage in Boston — free the nipple! Now, I'm not suggesting that you get-your-tits-out-for-the-lads on the regular whilst you're strutting down the block, but carefully layering see-through, voluminous layers creates a subtly sexy and rebellious elegance that Duncan would be proud of.

The Silk Scarf

"My motto — sans limites"

Habotai Silk Veil, $12, Now, it is simply impossible to channel Isadora Duncan vibes without at least mentioning a silk scarf! Dharma Trading produces beautiful hemmed silk scarves in a variety of fabric types from chiffon to habotai at very reasonable prices. Dharma predominantly market themselves as textile designers, but even if you are not the crafty type it's a great place to pick up a quality scarf to twirl about yourself on a spring eve. Just please, please, don't wear it in a convertible!

The Perfume

"Poetry personified. She is not the tenth muse but all nine muses in one."

Daisy Eau So Fresh perfume, $89,

With its natural and airy fragrance, Marc Jacobs' Daisy Eau So Fresh calls to mind spring meadows and barefoot running through wild grass. Make like Miss Duncan and spritz this on your silks before you play around in a country glade with your fellow nymphs.

The Hair And Makeup

"My inspiration has been drawn from trees, from waves, from clouds, from the sympathies that exist between passion and the storm, between gentleness and the soft breeze, and the like, I always endeavor to put into my movements a little of that divine continuity which gives to the whole of nature its beauty and its life."Duncan's dance philosophy was centered around the organic, and this was reflected in her personal appearance — she wore little makeup. Her glamour came from her absolute inner beauty, and looking after what Mother Nature gave her.To achieve Isadora Duncan's flawless complexion, try switching your chemically enhanced daily skin care essentials for totally natural alternatives. Mix olive oil with brown sugar until it forms a granular but sticky paste. This can be used in so many different ways for super smooth, glowing skin. Carefully scrub the face with gentle circular motions, rinse off the sugar, and use cotton wool to wipe off the oil — this will take your makeup off with it and leave you with beautifully glowing skin. It can also be used to shave your legs and body hair, or as a scrub in the shower!

Handmade Gold Crown, Heart of Gold Designs,

Athena Leaf Crown, $37,

As for your tresses, why not experiment with a Grecian-inspired hair piece? Both Heart of Gold and Eclectic Eccentricity create beautiful crowns for the mythic goddess in us all, at different price points. Don't forget to look after those locks with regular hair treatments. (Try coconut oil, it is immense! Just don't forget to shampoo it out unless you want to look more Grease Lightening than Greek Goddess.)Let your natural hair down, and maybe try a little Isadora-inspired dancing to this:

The Song

"She was speaking her own language, not echoing any ballet master, and so she came to move as no one had ever seen anyone move before."

I think what I love most about Isadora Duncan is her absolute belief in her artistic ideas, the way she stuck true to her core — because haters gonna hate, in the words of Taylor Swift. I love the way she drew inspiration from the natural world and the past, and created something that at the time was futuristic despite its nostalgia. She bent the rules, but without being aggressive, she changed the way people perceived dance. This piece by the wonderful Nils Frahm is both classical and modern, wistful and nostalgic and contemporary. It is the perfect soundtrack for walking in the countryside in your silken Duncan-style threads, or lazing with your headphones whilst staring at the clouds during a moment of quiet contemplation.Image: Flickr/rafa59(ll); Flickr/GregHausM.D; Courtesy Brands; Instagram