24 March 2009

On the Fringe

Today I got a spectacularly ill-timed email from Bergdorf Goodman introducing Marchesa Couture, headlining with this $5500 dress.

Clearly people will still need nice dresses, and if you can afford it, good for you! But the bow, and the length and the fringe and the sparkles make it look as though it were designed by a twelve year old trying to update and sexify Jennifer Connelly's dress from Labyrinth for an upcoming Bat Mitzvah.

More interesting, though is the woman behind the brand's name. Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig named their clothing brand after Luisa Casati Stampa di Soncino, Marchesa di Roma (and breathe...), the original female dandy, who said "I want to be a living work of art."

Crazy Eyes

A wealthy woman, patron of the arts and all of those other cliches about moneyed people in the early 20th century, she was in fact a true eccentric, commissioning nude male servants painted in gold as help, seating wax mannequins as guests at her dining table, wearing live snakes as jewelery and taking evening walks with her cheetahs, wearing only fur. There are a few stories about killing chickens and blood and wearing them, but I'd rather dwell on the more provable fact that she devoted a gallery in one of her homes (the Palais Rose, with floors of red marble) to herself, with over 130 likenesses in one room. Sounds rather Tyra Banks.

A likeness by Giovanni Boldini (1908)

It was not to last, however. By the age of 49, Marchesa had aquired a debt of $25 million and spent the rest of her life poverty stricken in London, fishing through garbage bins for feathers to wear in her hair.

And there hasn't been a film made about her?

But back to my point - knowing only what the celebrities choose to wear of Marchesa, I was prepared to write Georgina and Keren off as phonys. And it's kind of true, many of the dresses, though lovely, are merely that - precious, beautiful and conventional, however intricate they may be.

Anne Hathaway at the 2008 Academy Awards

In researching her shows, however, they certainly do make the eccentric pieces too (not of the snake jewelry or chicken blood variety mind you)...but I suppose these aren't the ones that Bergdorfs are going to pick up, which is why we won't see anyone stepping out in them on the red carpet. But I have hope that SWINTON will accept this challenge.

Kind of Tim Burton-y, no?

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