Fairy tale fashion

You might imagine that Vladimir Propp’s seminal book of theory, the ‘Morphology of the Folk Tale’, was fashion’s set text for Autumn/Winter 2014. Because at many shows there was a mise-en-scene, or series of tableaux that brought to mind the famous tropes of fairy tale and fantasy. Perhaps it’s a Game Of Thrones moment, or indeed yet another attempt to escape from global austerity into a world of the carnivalesque, but scenes of bucolic reverie and the theatrical caricatures dwelling within them just kept on cropping up.

Designers had upped the ante and cast aside familiar archetypes like princesses and wicked stepmothers though. These evocations were oblique, evocative and suggestive rather than obvious renderings of stereotypes. They were entirely contemporary references to Hans Christian Anderson and Brothers Grimm, filtered through a lens of modernity, relevant for our dystopian world of global warming and digitalisation.

At Rick Owens the models reminded of Dora and Nora Chance, the twin heroines of Angela Carter’s last novel Wise Children. Was it their carnivalesque attire or their cheeky ringletted curls and rosy cheeks that brought to mind the fictional creations of the queen of the postmodern fairy tale? At Mulberry too, there was Cara Delevigne playing little girl lost in the forest, innocent and angelic in a pristine white dress. And at Dolce and Gabbana woodland creatures adorned the clothes, with owls, foxes and squirrels beautifully appliqued and embroidered onto vivid red and cyaneous blue dresses and coats and tops. “This collection is all about fantasy, enchantment and dreams,” commented Stefano Gabanna of the wildwood theme and this fantasia of leaves twigs and branches and their associated flora and fauna could also be witnessed in the hair and make up looks of other shows too. Sarah Burton’s women at Alexander McQueen were part-woman, part wolf, with flocculent, whiskered ink-black eyebrows; their hair was pure Rapunzel – endless skeins of braiding wound round and round the head. Issey Miyake’s theme was also arcadian and pastoral, his ‘Rhythmic Forest’ show had model’s hair styled to evoke the grains in a piece of wood – pulled back and combed to create lines in it.


Not surprisingly, eyes, with all their expressive and entrancing potential, became the foregrounded feature on the face in many shows. Eyes with a folkloric and fantasy theme were dramatic flights of fancy on the face. And often there was a dark or strange drama to them as much as sweetness and light. At Pucci they were rimmed with black and embellished with gold to lend a magical emphasis. Pat McGrath bleached eyebrows at Alexander McQueen and Givenchy to give an otherworldly-meets mediaeval-fairy-tale-look, she also drew feathered strokes in charcoal black pencil both above and below eyes at Yohji Yamamoto. “To give the overall impression of powerful dolls,” she explained. Indeed you can imagine a current day little red riding hood peeping through faux innocent layers of false lashes, cocooned within her cloak, or an inner city fairy tale heroine made up with black and silver eyes to resemble the night sky….


This piece was first published in Japanese Vogue in 2014