If you haven't been to the Alice in Wonderland exhibit at London's Victoria & Albert Museum, look away now if you don't want spoilers! It's showing until December 2021, but I couldn't resist writing about it because obviously Alice is so very dear to my heart....
The exhibit does a deep dive into all things Alice, how Lewis Carroll's globally famous story has been reimagined, interpreted and developed since its origins over 157 years ago. That's a long time for a tale to have influenced musicians, artists, filmmakers, designers and all manner of creative corners of society.
The exhibit offers plenty of insight into how the story began, and on display is a wealth of illustrations, costumes, manuscripts and original musings from the past. What struck me most is how the story of Alice in Wonderland can become relatable in so many ways, to so many people.
Yes, it's been a reference point to many a fashion editorial photoshoot, but somehow it never gets old because we all see and feel the story in our own way. Visually, the iconic costume associated with her character is the blue dress, headband and blonde hair. In fact, the original image of Alice (based on Caroll's family friend Alice Riddell) was a brunette, it was in the fifties that her hair colour altered to appeal to the mainstream 'Hollywood' era.
The aesthetic of the whole story is so imaginative, from tumbling down the rabbit hole, the never-ending mad hatters tea party, playing crochet with flamingo's, growing and then shrinking and exploring a world that is entirely back to front and upside down. If you ever wondered why our brand name came from the second book title 'Through The Looking Glass (and What Alice Found There)' its because to me that's the feeling I get when I enter a vintage store, antiques emporium, charity shop or retro car boot - all manner of curious items displayed around you, like a treasure trove and you never know what you'll stumble upon next.
I have always been drawn to second hand shopping since I was a young girl. I'm partial to Wonderland because often I'm a fan of using things for a purpose they were not initially intended, or reimagining one person's 'trash' for another persons 'treasure' Our old high street boutique hung art like clothes, and framed clothes on the wall like works of art. With the constant flux of new pieces of vintage stock arriving, the whole shop could look different each time you visited, to me - that's a version of Wonderland that makes shopping fun, imaginative and is good for the planet!
I'm also instinctively drawn to eccentricity. The world of vintage embraces this fully! Whether its people's personalities or ways of living, the characters in this story are celebrated through the curious eyes of Alice. The book pushes us all to look at the world around us and questions what is 'normal' after all? Never has this been more apt after the global effect of the Covid Pandemic, when our lives were turned upside down and the ways we live changed overnight. Time itself became somehow altered as none of us left our homes, animals began freely meandering in empty urban spaces as we heard repeatedly about 'the new normal' in the media.
Perhaps what also appeals the most is the very endearing nature of a young girl, her curiosity and her confidence. We are all Alice, sometimes tall and sometimes small to navigate the world around us. Following things that peak our interest, not knowing the outcome but opening the door anyway. Maybe we ask for help or maybe we soldier on without it. It's good to challenge what you see, and ask questions in this modern world - to help make positive changes. Sometimes it can all get too much, but we learn lessons along the way. Step outside your comfort zone now and again and see what you might find!
The exhibit stirred all these musings in my brain - I wonder what it stirs in yours?
The iconic aspects of the book remain timeless, no matter how many times the story has been told by different creators, be it Walt Disney, Tim Burton, Vivienne Westwood, Salvador Dali, Tim Walker, The National Ballet or the psychedelic drug induced songs from the sixties. You see a top hat, a stopwatch, a grinning cat, a potion bottle marked 'drink me', a jam tart, a keyhole, a Dodo, a giant chess board, a white rabbit..... and you see Alice and her adventures.
Below is a selection of Wonderland inspired vintage items for your home and wardrobe, should you wish to inject a bit of our dear Alice into your world!