|Photographed by Thomas Marrington
Model: Faye, as Snow White, wears River Island
I originally wrote this last Autumn when the S/S14 collections were being shown, but the effects are still relevant today; Maleficent has recently opened worldwide to great success, leading a slew of new fairy tale film adaptions. Did the fashion world arrive late to this trend, or just on time?
|Korlekie, Valentino and Oscar de la Renta|
|Harrods Christmas Disney Princesses Windows|
On Tuesday 10th September 2013, as New York Fashion Week neared its end, Oscar De La Renta sent a billowing azure ball gown down the runway for his SS14 ready-to-wear collection. In Berlin, Kilian Kerner showed a stunning twist on the classic princess dress, charming in its modernity – a cropped fitted top, beautifully embellished in golden tones, paired with a white hooped skirt. The dresses were unmistakably and unapologetically fantastical, as if taken from a 21st Century Disney animation. Ethereal and inspired, they roused a sleeping love affair with fairy tales shared by women the world over.
Ask any woman you want and you’ll likely discover that fairy tales were a beloved part of her childhood. All too often they are dismissed as whimsical and misogynistic but in reality they are an integral part of our primary socialization. From fairy tales we learn about good and evil, we develop morals and principles and (perhaps most importantly) we learn how to handle difficult situations.
Fairy tales are the building blocks of how we think and how we feel, but so too can they be the mould we shape our futures on. After all, what little girl didn’t dream of being Cinderella in a castle? When I raised the topic with my friends, their responses varied. One said “I’d be a different person without them, less girly. I just love them!“. The more cynical among them took the opinion that fairy tales had set them up to fail. “I enjoyed them at the time but they gave me unrealistic expectations of love and how life works. You think everything should be as it is in the fairy tales and everyone should be pretty, that if your life isn’t like a fairy tale then you’re doing something wrong.”
Perhaps the key to their success is their longevity; fairy tales have endured countless remakes, re-interpretations and adaptions over the years, though none have been more successful than Walt Disney’s classics. In October 2012 Harrods announced its collaboration with several world renowned designers to create one-of-a-kind bespoke dresses inspired by the Disney Princesses. Over Christmas the windows of Harrods were transformed into castles, grand staircases and ornate bedchambers as the Disney Princesses were dressed in their finest couture to date. Versace, Oscar De La Renta, Elie Saab and Valentino were among the designers creating stunning tributes to the Princesses and the fairy tales they were born from.
Two new film adaptions, Cinderella and Into The Woods, have recently begun production, following in the footsteps of a multitude of fairy tale re-imagining’s released since 2011 such as Beastly, Mirror Mirror and Snow White and The Huntsmen. Harry Potter star Emma Watson is very much at the centre of this new wave, having originally been cast in Cinderella; after dropping out of the movie and being replaced by Lily James, Watson secured the role of Belle in Guillermo Del Toro’s upcoming adaption of Beauty and the Beast.
Maybe the most interesting of Hollywood’s newest fairy tale offerings is Disney’s reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, starring Angelina Jolie as Maleficent opposite Elle Fanning as Aurora. The twist? This time we see things from Maleficent’s perspective. Add in Lana Del Rey’s haunting cover of Once Upon A Dream and this dark tale is most certainly not for the light hearted.
Can it be simply coincidence then that, as fairy tales re-emerge into Hollywood with full force, designers begin taking their cues from the classic tales? Cara Delevingne modelled a gothic black and green semi sheer gown complete with studded headdress for Valentino’s SS14 ready-to-wear show in Paris, whilst Korlekie debuted a stunning high-necked number, resplendent with black banding over the entire dress – both exude a menacing beauty reminiscent of the iconic villain Jolie is to portray.
The fact remains that fashion and fairy tales are a perfect pairing, as Camilla Morton has established with her fairy tale themed memoirs of iconic designers. Christian Lacroix, Manolo Blahnik and Diane Von Furstenberg have each illustrated their memoirs, instilling their own unique stylistic traits into the novels to accompany Morton’s writing. High fashion and fairy tales harmonize so well because both are steeped in fantasy; they continually strive to attain the unattainable.
The universal fascination with fairy tales is perhaps best summarised by Rolf Snoeren, one half of design duo Viktor and Rolf, who lovingly illustrated their own book of fairy tales; “We have always loved to read them, over and over again. They provide a window to a different, magical world and can completely take you away from the here and now.” One thing is for certain; at a time of such financial and political unrest amongst much of the world, fairy tales provide a fantastical escape for anyone who reads them. This goes a long way to explaining their appeal – as Walt Disney said himself, “I think we have made the fairy tale fashionable again.” That may just be the understatement of the century.