Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On

According to folklore and mythology, a shapeshifter is someone who has the ability to alter its physical appearance. Try to think of the fairy tales you know and the anime you used to watch when you were a child: most of them include the theme of the magical transformation, which can take place thanks to an item (the magic wand of Creamy Mami, for example) or through the intervention of a divinity (the amazing tales of Ovid’s Metamorphoses; von Rothbart, an evil sorcerer who casts a spell on Odette – the protagonist of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake – and turns her into a swan). The alteration can be an improvement (the Frog Prince goes back to his human form thanks to a kiss, for example) or a worsening, but in our minds a metamorphosis often has a positive meaning. At the moment, the most meaningful magic transformation that comes to my mind is related to a scene I’ve watched nth times – Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother who turns her torn dress into a magnificent ball gown. Even if this precise moment is not a case of shapeshifting, the scene includes some – mice turned into horses, a pumpkin turned into a chariot, a horse turned into a coachman, a dog into a valet.

Now, if I were the lucky protagonist of this fairy tale, I would like my fairy godmother to turn my old dress into a Marchesa piece. I’m not joking when I say that Marchesa dresses are the contemporary version of the sparkling dress Cinderella wore to the ball. Apart from being works of art, they make you day-dream, which is one of the most important functions of fashion, in my opinion.

Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig presented their Spring 2011 collection at the Chelsea Art Museum on September 15th: the collection didn’t bring any revolution in their trademark princess-like style and I’m glad it didn’t, because it’s simply breathless. Many recurring themes from the previous collections (extended use of embroideries and embellishments, ruffled tulle, cut-outs, one shoulder) can be found here, plus a new passion for jumpsuits.

This beige/powder pink number looks more like a sculpture than a dress. The colour is incredibly refined, and the delicate cut-outs decorating the folds are just amazing. This reminds me of a kirie-inspired dress from the spring/summer 2010 collection [1], but it’s an outstanding piece the same.

Beige/dove grey and beige/powder pink are romantic colours: a very few people can pull them off, and I guess that is the reason why Chapman and Craig selected them for these two beautiful dresses: only princesses – or very lucky Hollywood stars – could afford them. Both are one-shouldered and have ruffled tulle skirts: the one on the right has an asymmetrical skirt and gold lame bodice, while the other one has a mermaid line and pleated tulle bodice.

The same pastel shades can be found in these jumpsuits. The choice to include such items comes totally unexpected to me, but I must admit I love it because I have a passion for jumpsuits (even if they don’t suit me much). These are super-luxurious version of the classic jumpsuit. The first is made of floral-printed silk, is one-shouldered and has a sash with long black fringes; look at those bows at the ankles, adorable! The second is made of lace and is paired to a jewelled bolero.

An explosion of tulle ruffles and marabou feathers: my first thought when I saw this dress. It kind of reminds me of Hussein Chalayan’s infamous cocoon dress, so I cannot say it’s totally new to me, even if it includes an embroidered yoke.

The same decorative element – the embellished yoke – can be found in these two dresses. The turquoise cabochons on the yoke of the one on the left are simply amazing – they embellish the sandals as well; I also love the baby doll shape (a leit motif in Marchesa’s early collections). The second dress is made of white lace and has a train: it would be a gorgeous wedding dress. In this case, the yoke is made of cut-out lace and pearls.

An evolution of the same theme brings to these two outfits, both characterized by an intricate beaded decoration worn over the actual garments – a lace jumpsuit and a chiffon dress with draped bodice. The feeling of deja-vu is back again: these spiderweb-like decorations remind me of Bliss Lau‘s super-sexy body jewellery and of a dress with beaded rope overlay in Zac Posen’s resort 2007 collection.

Draped tulle and lace can be found in this sexy number, too. It doesn’t convince me much because I think there’s too much going on – the juxtaposition of different patterns of lace and the draping makes it a little fussy.

The two dresses above feature draped tulle again, but they are incredibly beautiful, thanks to the embellished pagoda-shape peplum and the sweetheart neckline, to the gold applications on the bodice and the train.

I love these sexy bustier dresses in floral printed silk: the first has a big obi-like bow on the back (unfortunately it’s not visible in the pic), while the other one has a flowy train starting from the back waistline.

Even if I didn’t know these two were Marchesa dresses, I would have guessed their identity, since they’re so Marchesa. The white one – one-shouldered, with draped skirt and the waist accented by a beaded embroidery – could be another perfect wedding dress. The lavender Grecian dress, on the other hand, is the quintessence of Chapman and Craig’s style: this shape has been featured in many past collections and is a trademark.

A gorgeous lilac shade and a cooler baby blue/lavender have been chosen for these two dresses, featuring motifs we have already seen – cut-outs and tulle ruffles and feathers. I like the long dress, even though the tulle decoration makes it messy, but I adore the short one, with that amazing lace-like cut-outs on the front and the cute rosettes accenting the shoulders.

What I have written of the Grecian dress can be referred to these dresses, too. I feel like I’ve seen something similar a thousand times, yet the tailoring techniques used, the fabrics and the colours make them special. I think they have the floral theme in common, in the sense that the fabric is folded and draped so as to give the dress the appearance of a flower. The bustier dress is made of baby blue silk, while the one-shouldered dress with rosettes on the skirt is made of beige/powder pink silk.

The colour palette of the collection is divided into light and dark shades. The first dominate, but items in dark colours haven’t been left out. I have mixed opinions of these black lace and tulle jumpsuits: I love the one with the plunging neckline (ohhh, I also adore the lace draping on the legs), but I don’t like the lace and tulle one, because it presents the problem the sexy white dress above has.

I am in awe of this stunning organza dress. When I look at something so precious, I ask myself why Marchesa collections are considered pret-à-porter and not haute couture. This is a dream-like dress, made unique by the black applications at the hem, on the bodice and on the asymmetrical peplum: these decorations remind me of the wings of a butterfly (especially on the bodice) or of old wrought iron gates.

A vision. Words fail me when it comes to describe this black and white tulle dress. I love everything here – the emphasized mermaid line, the painted tulle, black fading into white. I’m speechless.

This purple satin number is probably my favourite one and if you know my tastes, you’ll know why. I love embellishments, decorations, lace and pearls, don’t get me wrong, but I would never ever wear one of the dresses above, because they’re too girly or sexy for my liking. On the other hand, this is simply perfect and has my name all over it (I wish). The draping at the waistline and the train are dramatic but still retain simplicity; the painted silk makes it special and the strapless bodice is a subtly sexy touch.

After my favourite, here it comes my least favourite. I don’t know what is going on here, but something is wrong and the feeling is probably due to the uncomfortable pose of the model. The hand on the massive tulle pleats gathered at the hip underlines the uneasiness of this dress. The details are beautiful – especially the painted tulle – but the result leaves me cold.

Sorry but I couldn’t find any close-ups of the gorgeous accessories seen on the models. The embellished box clutch bags are part of Marchesa’s accessory collection, while the shoes are custom-made creations by Christian Louboutin, among which satin peep-toe pumps, satin strappy sandals, embellished sandals (echoing the jewels worn as headpieces), Big Lips pumps in white satin and Fastissima ankle boots.

I know it’s hard to pick a favourite among these marvellous creations, but if you were a modern Cinderella, which one would you choose?

[1] You may remember the black and white dress was seen on Rihanna at the 2009 American Music Awards.





  1. Esiste un bellissimo brano strumentale dei Level 42 (primi anni 80, quando ancora suonavano fusion, non pop), che si chiama proprio Shapeshifter…

    lo puoi sentire anche su You Tube….al link sopra riportato.


    1. Grazie mille per il link. Negli anni ’80 mi piacevano molto i Level 42 pop, ma non sapevo avessere un passato da band di fusion. Shapeshifter è un brano interessante 🙂

      1. …soprattutto Mark King, front-man della band – cantante e bassista, è considerato uno dei migliori bassisti funk in circolazione.
        Li ho visti dal vivo un paio di volte, con la formazione originale…spaccano!
        (io adoro il funk e il soul)

  2. Pingback: I Do! «

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