Alice in Wonderland

Collection, Powerhouse Museum

I recently saw the new Alice in Wonderland movie and Alice’s blue dress brought to mind a dress in the collection created by Japanese designer Jun Takahashi for his Spring-Summer 2005 collection.

Takahashi’s dress may have been inspired by the story of Alice in Wonderland but the source of his take on the story was not only the novel by Lewis Carroll but another earlier screen version; the very eerie, surreal film, Alice, made by Czech artist Jan Svankmajer in 1988. Apparently the opening narration says it’s a film made for children….perhaps? It’s a bit creepy but in a bizarre and compelling way. It’s not something I‘d sleep on.

In Svankmajer’s film, Alice inhabits a nightmarish world of rotting furniture, stuffed animal corpses, and malevolent dolls. Taking his cue from the film’s decaying environment, Takahashi created an Edwardian style dress in lace, silk and tulle which from a distance looks pretty and innocent with its very feminine frills and lace.

Collection, Powerhouse Museum

However when you get closer you can see the fabric has been layered, ripped and sewn to appear as if its surface is cracked and rotting.

Collection, Powerhouse Museum

Then if you start to look at the details of the applied and embroidered trims you realise they are shaped like teeth and fangs while eyeballs nestle in the fake fur trim and a row of brains embellish the bodice.

Collection, Powerhouse Museum

Part of the beauty and creepiness of Svankmajer’s film is the creaking and clanking of the soundtrack and Takahashi has even captured this by sewing a rusted metal ‘lacework’ trim around the hem of the skirt.

Collection, Powerhouse Museum

As the skirt moves they tinkle.

What do you think of Takahashi’s dress?


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