“Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast” Alice from Alice in Wonderland.
The character of Alice has been a favourite for many, we envy her adventures in Wonderland as she gets stuffed into teapots and encounters an array of characters like the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts. But Alice stepped out of the looking glass and onto the runways. Lewis Carroll dressed Alice in silk ribbons, Disney created a sweet and saucer eyed Alice and Tim Burton transformed Alice into a fiercely independent young woman who is faced with the task of destroying the Jabberwocky. The bedtime tale has revolutionised the fashion industry and has provided a mechanism to explore the idea of escapism, where the boundaries that confine fashion are blurred and even non-existent. Alice and her surroundings have provided designers like Stella McCartney, Tom Binns and Nicholas Kirkwood a foundation to dissect the elements of the story and project it into clothing.
Designs that have been crafted with Alice in Wonderland in mind have often led to the creation of pieces that are inviting and delightful, yet simply unwearable. However this is not always the case as some pieces break down the barriers of impossibility and can fit through the door of wearable clothing; you just have to have the right key. Designer Sue Wong is the queen of wearable fairy tale fashion. In February 2010 Wong launched a Wonderland inspired collection titled “Sue Wong for Walt Disney Signature”, a line inspired by Tim Burton’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. Wong’s line was influenced by characters such as Alice, the White Queen, the Queen of Hearts, the White Rabbit and the flower garden that Alice finds herself exploring. Wong commented that she had “long been mesmerised by the fantastical tales of Alice and her surrealistic adventures. My design aesthetic, which is whimsical and fun [adds] yet another element of creativity and expression to my artistic approach”. The collection ranged from $329-$609 and was housed in Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom. Although the collection stemmed from the fantastical Wonderland, the pieces that were created didn’t look like the costumes from the film set. The dress inspired by the White Queen was constructed of white ornate lace sprinkled with beads, symbolic of the celestial and elegant nature of the White Queen. The gown sported a V-neck with a fitted dropped-waist bodice and a floor sweeping mermaid skirt. This ethereal piece contrasted the deep brooding tones reflected in the dress inspired by the Red Queen. Wong explored the relationship between the two Queens (as they are portrayed as sisters in the film), both dresses sported the same V-neck neckline, yet the deep burgundy tone was offset with obsidian black beading proclaiming the darker nature of the Red Queen.
“I’m late I’m late for a very important date!”; just like the White Rabbit we can sometimes find ourselves running late for an important event, but Wong’s dress inspired by the White Rabbit endorsed practicality and style with a 1920s vibe. But Wong also explored Alice’s surroundings and incorporated features of Wonderland into her pieces. For example the flower garden to which Alice is first introduced. The colour in these pieces were accentuated to reflect the wonder and confusion Alice feels when she first enters Wonderland. Where the other dresses in the collection were beaded and adorned with delicate lace, the pieces inspired by the flower garden were patterned with an array of flowers which gave the dress an organic feel. Robert Oberschelp, the director of Disney Lifestyle Collections for Disney Consumer Products, said “Disney has been influencing fashion trends for several years’ thanks in part to the universal appeal of our characters and to the inspiration from such creative works of art as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland”. He is not far wrong as the recurrent adaptations of the tale elicited designs from other major fashion powers, such as Tom Binns and Nicholas Kirkwood.
Tom Binns stepped through the looking glass and created some fantastic jewellery pieces inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Binns worked his unique flair to produce intricate jewellery pieces in association with Disney. A key piece in the collection was the “Open for Choice” necklace; a pearl necklace sporting a keyhole patterned with a mushroom graphic and a cascade of keys and chains. The piece is symbolic of the beginning of the Allice in Wonderland as Alice struggles to access the door that will eventually transport her to Wonderland.
Alice may soon become the best dressed fictional character in the Disney universe. Credit is due to the Parisian store Printemps, who asked designers to design unique and bespoke pieces for Alice. Nicholas Kirkwood created a pair of shoes that embodied Wonderland as a whole. Kirkwood told Vogue.com that his “interpretation for Alice is all about fantasy and fun through escapism” and certainly this is what Lewis Carroll’s story allows, expression through escapism.
Article by Aminah Khan