Oscar Wilde was a poet, playwright and one of the main figures behind the Aesthetic movement. As well as his love for beauty and distaste for waste, he had a flair for self publicity. His style blended rebel with dandy, this guy knew how to Peacock. So, when it came to creating my A/W '22 collection, the OG of Slow fashion was my obvious choice.
How has Wilde Influenced Design in Popular Culture?
As one of the first celebrities, Wilde was famous for the way he looked and what he said before he wrote anything. He was famous for being famous. And then he started writing.. In ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’, Wilde writes about sin and corruption and art and morality. The novel also explores the relationship between art and reality. The novel was criticised as scandalous and immoral.
Leading a double life, Dorian's dark desires tread the fine line between ethics and aesthetics. It's a late Victorian Gothic banger.
When it came to style, Oscar Wilde's views on fashion were just as divisive. He hated fast fashion with its waste and synthetic dyes. Wilde preferred the natural fibres and muted tones seen in the aesthetic movement. A move away from materialism the aesthetic movement was set against the harsh backdrop of the industrial age. It was a rallying cry for artists to distance themselves from the materialism of the late 19th century. The aesthetic movement challenged the values of mainstream Victorian culture in more ways than one.
The aesthetic value of literature, music and the arts trumped any other practical or political uses. Wilde believed that art didn’t need to express anything but itself. Art didn't need justification and it countered the opinion of many. Most Victorians believed art must deliver an ethical message and weren't concerned with its quality. As another icon of the aesthetic movement, Rossetti's paintings also reflected this change. The ideal Victorian woman of the time was petite, poised and often Blonde. Rosetti painted women with strong features and flowing Red hair in more relaxed poses. However, it was more than just a fine art movement, aestheticism covered all areas of life. Music, literature, interior design and fashion were all disrupted. Speaking of fashion..
Fashion Inspired by the Middle Ages
Whether you view it through the lens of revolution, counterculture or dress reform, the truth is, fashion was never the same again.
As a style, aestheticism was elaborate and obsessed with the medieval. Freedom of movement was key and contrasted with traditional styles which were more constricted. Restrictive corsets were replaced with long, flowing dresses with soft pleats and folds. Influences were taken from the styles of the middle ages. The garments from the medieval period had the best of both; elegance, simplicity and beauty.
The aesthetic movement hated the manufactured dyes and used all natural dyes made from vegetables. More muted colours were used with natural tones such as russet red, terracotta, cobalt, moss green etc. Like many new styles, many people couldn't get on board with the Aesthetic fashion, finding it too ‘messy’ and lacking structure. But, later into the 19th century the movement gained more and more popularity. Even when many considered the movement over - following the imprisonment of Wilde for homosexuality in 1895 - the ideals of the movement became part of the mainstream.
The 19th Century Dandy
So, given that he attacked 'fashion' so frequently, why was Oscar Wilde so linked with dandyism? Well, he may have disliked fashion (by its wasteful definition) but he loved clothes. The classic dandy was as much a character as an aesthetic. Wit and nonchalance played a part as did original postures, hairstyle, and clothing, and obviously, Wilde did things his own way. The rebel style was more bohemian whilst the dandy seemed more inline with aristocratic culture. Oscar Wilde’s dandy reflected his spirit and personal freedom rather than a symbol of his status. In this way, Wilde was perhaps one of the first to treat public life as an artistic performance.
“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” Oscar Wilde
Inspired by Victorian Mens fashion and Oscar Wilde’s own clothing as well as his novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’ the prints reference the imagery from his books (peacocks, orchids, paintings, Victorian society).
The new Autumn Winter Collection 'I Am A Dreamer' will be launching on the 31st October at 8PM.