Fashioning Art: Millais inspires Rodarte

Rodarte Spring 2015 and Ophelia (1851-52), John Everett Millais

Rodarte Spring 2015 and Ophelia (1851-52), John Everett Millais [Image from Fash of the Titans]

Millais’s Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece brings Act IV, Scene VII of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet to life. In her last moments, Ophelia sings as she drowns herself in a stream, mad with grief at murder of her father, Polonius, by her lover, Hamlet. Hamlet’s mother Gertrude arrives bearing the tragic news:

There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element; but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.

In this dress from their Spring 2015 season, Kate and Laura Mulleavy strongly evoke the tragic beauty of Millais’s best-known work. Scholars have studied the rich symbolism of Millais’s choice of flora and fauna. The wild roses by the pink of Ophelia’s cheeks and lining the riverbanks recall her brother Laertes calling her “rose of May”. Willow and nettles, often associated with lost love and pain, hang heavy, thickly framing the figure of Ophelia. In her hand, Ophelia loosely holds a bouquet including poppies, forget-me-nots and pansies, all three flowers alluding to unrequited love and death. The Mulleavy’s dress features a mixture of contrasting textures, fabric and beading that alludes to the wilting flowers floating on the shimmering surface of the water that slowly drags Ophelia into its shadowy depths.

Image taken from @FashoftheTitans

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