Alice: The Eternal Muse

I’ve always been a massive Alice in Wonderland fan- and am really excited about seeing Damon Albarn’s over Christmas- but what actually inspired me to write this blog was the Mert & Marcus Alice photos of Kendall Jenner in (December) Vogue. In case you haven’t seen them, take a look at this pure fabulousness:
VogueThis shoot, together with the fact that YESTERDAY marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, compelled me to consider the seemingly eternal influence the children’s book has had upon the world of fashion specifically. We all know that the ‘Alice band’ was said to have emerged following the publication of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, but the influence of the novels has shaped more than just hair accessories. The world of Alice is engrained into our collective cultural consciousness and has permeated a range of creative spheres for generations. All things Alice just don’t get ‘old’ and the world of fashion has drawn inspiration from Carroll’s Wonderland in countless ways. Wonderland is quintessentially British and it is the fantastical, quirky nature of Carroll’s tale that makes it so appealing to adults and children alike. The novel’s resistance to interpretation can be seen as the precise reason why it has been so culturally influential over the last century and a half; people use Alice in a multitude of ways. The Tim Burton remake saw a return to the more gothic, dark undertones of Carroll’s novel and it is this type of approach, rather than the cutesy vibe, that seems to ring true for the world of fashion.

That being said, Disney’s influence upon how we perceive Alice- as a style icon especially- simply cannot be ignored. The influence of Tenniel’s illustrations is obvious, but Disney has also played a crucial hand in shaping our conceptions of how Alice dressed. Depictions of Alice’s outfit varied widely during the nineteenth century and it is only since the Disney 1951 cartoon adaptation that the blue dress and pinafore have become synonymous with Alice.

One particular highlight of the blue dress at centre stage is Grace Coddington’s 2003 Vogue Christmas spread shot by Annie Lebovitz. Natalia Vodianova was Alice and designers such as Marc Jacobs (see him below portraying the caterpillar) and Tom Ford portrayed supporting characters.

alice in wonderland vogue marc jacob

THE blue dress came to take centre stage of the shoot (watch the great HBO documentary In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye to find out more) as designers such as Karl Lagerfeld were tasked with recreating Alice’s iconic outfit. Months of research went into planning the shoot and Coddington made sure to stay true to Sir John Tenniel’s iconic illustrations. Images like Alice holding the flamingo were painstakingly recreated and the result was as whimsical yet as striking as you would expect:

alice flamingo

As well as the blue dress, the iconography of the novel has become a focus point in the world of fashion. From Queen of hearts prints to all things tea-party, any modern fashion fiend worth their salt knows an Alice reference when they see one. From subtle to outlandish, Alice in Wonderland is more than a theme and is in fact a cultural institution. alice illustration.jpgMarks & Spencer’s used Alice in Wonderland for a 2013 campaign with Rosie Huntington Whitely as Alice and David Gandy as the mad hatter. It’s my belief that the known tear jerking tactics of our grocers at Christmas time are enough to tell us about the importance of advertising content with wide spread appeal. If it’s one thing we all know its that Alice sells. The world of Alice is one like no other; inherently creative, exciting and eccentric yet equally familiar and comforting, as with many things from childhood. Alice brings out the child in all of us.

Whilst Disney have partnered with several fashion brands and sellers, from Selfridges (‘Alice in Wonder room’ 2010) to Swarovski, their most recent venture is with Marc by Marc Jacobs who utilises all the imagery we associate with Alice. From the Cheshire cat to keys to laughing flowers to door knobs, each item features a visual reference to Alice (specifically the Disney cartoon of course). The collection is introduced on the website with Alice’s classic line- ‘I am not like other girls’- and it is this that I believe sums up the appeal of Alice in Wonderland most succinctly. We love it because it is wildly imaginative and totally unique.Alternative worlds will always appeal; we all want to take a giant step through the looking glass or a tumble down the rabbit hole. The wonderful words crafted by Carroll (real name Charles Dodgson) have in turn fostered visual markers that continue to have a wide spread appeal for style camps of every persuasion.

150 years ago, a young girl named Alice Liddell convinced Lewis Carroll to write down the imaginative tales he so often entertained her with so that she might keep them forever. Today, any fashion item that even references the world of that story can become a collector’s piece and as the focal point of any range Wonderland can make millions. That, I believe, is testament to the eternal nature of Alice.

Alice in Vogue

Natalia as Alice stepping through the looking glass (Vogue 2003).

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