Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On

Marchesa collections have always had a special place in my fashion hall of fame, because they make my inner Victorian and romantic self shiver with aesthetic pleasure. The fall/winter 2011 collection – the inspiration was Miss Havisham, one of the main characters of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations – is still one of my favourites, but it’s true that Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig do their best to re-work the staples of their style, collection after collection. Some trademark models – for example, the famous Grecian silhouette – have been progressively taken out of the main collection (they still go strong in resort), while others keep on recurring with minor variations.

I must admit I have mixed feelings when it comes to the fall/winter 2012 collection, which was presented last week in New York. Some pieces are impressive, but the central theme is a bit vague, so the result sometimes lacks consistency.

The golden cocoon coat and dress above introduce the main source of inspiration, a painting (oil on canvas) by the French artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau – A Soul Brought to Heaven. Both pieces are made of brocade with birds flying, reminiscent of the cranes which often recur in Chapman’s designs [1].

Besides the subject of the painting, what is interesting here is the colour palette introduced by the artist – gold and different shades of white, cream and beige, plus black and red, which can all be found in the collection.

Lily Collins wore the brocade dress with gold bird embroidery when she attended the 2012 CFDA Fashion Awards in New York on June 4th, 2012. She paired it with Swarovski jewellery and gold clutch, plus gold mirror pumps by Giuseppe Zanotti. I’m not a fan of this dress, but I think Lily totally pulled it off with grace. Her make-up and flawless chignon made the whole outfit perfect.

Experimenting with shapes has never been a prerogative of Marchesa collections, but this time we’re given something which is actually new. Take these white dresses, for example: their lace decorations are exquisite, but their shapes are quite unusual. I’m referring to the one on the right, in particular, which features a drop waistline and a sort of capelet, serving as an overlay for the long sleeves.

Eva Longoria wore the dress with structured skirt and embroidered bodice at the White House Correspondents Dinner on April 28, 2012. She paired it to Brian Atwood Maniac satin pumps and a white clutch by Emilio Pucci. I’m not a fan of white dresses on red carpets, but she looked lovely.

The capelet returns in this dress, where it is balanced by 3/4 sleeves and a short hemline. The all-over arabesque embroidery is impressive: it’s beautifully emphasized by the iridescent quality of the silk underneath.

hot-or-hmm-rita-oras-bob-and-harvey-weinstein-holiday-party-marchesa-fall-2012-dressRita Ora wore the complete outfit above (lace dress and cut-out boots designed by Christian Louboutin) when she attended the holiday party hosted by Bob and Harvey Weinstein in West Hollywood on December 19th, 2012. Even if the dress is beautiful, I don’t like how Rita styled it. I hate her with straight hair because the black roots are so visible, and in general I think this look totally lacks the wow factor that it should have.

When it comes to angels, feathers can’t be missing: many are the dresses featuring this decoration, which has always been a Marchesa trademark. These two models are quite ordinary, if compared to the past collections: feathers are applied on tulle (dress on the left) and on satin (dress on the right), and the results are equally heavenly.

A different kind of feathers – fuller than those seen in the icy white dresses above – can be found in other dresses, where the element of three-dimensionality has a key role. The hem and sleeves of the white dress are trimmed with long “fat” feathers, the same which embellish the dress itself; see the beautiful degradé effect on the upper bodice and sleeves, where feathers have been applied on tulle. The same technique has been used in the beige/blush dress. The short feathers applied on the long skirt reminds me of rose petals: my mind goes to some impressive dresses from Alexander McQueen spring/summer 2007 collection, characterized by real rose petals applied on tulle.

Naomi Watts wore the beige/blush dress above at the 65th Cannes Film Festival: she attended the world premiere of the restored version of Once Upon a Time in America, the masterpiece by Sergio Leone, on May 18th, 2012. She looked stunning: the dress enhanced her romantic beauty and the dazzling accessories (diamond jewellery by Chopard and a diamanté box clutch) perfectly complemented the outfit.

The same kind of feathers are in the mid-calf length skirt of this impressive sleeveless dress. I don’t know which technique has been used for the rest of the dress – the overlay looks like an intricate cut-out work – but it’s stunning.

The contrast between nude and a bright colour is another recurring element in Marchesa creations, since nude tulle is often used as a blank canvas, on which applying decorations, drapings or pleated fabrics. Both dresses are based on this idea – scarlet lace (pleated on the bodice and applied in fan-like motives) on nude tulle, or black lace on nude lace for an all-over sheer/opaque effect.

Jennifer Lawrence, the protagonist of The Hunger Games by Gary Ross, wore the red dress when she attended the premiere of the movie in Berlin on March 16, 2012. She accessorized it with Giuseppe Zanotti satin platform peep-toe pumps and a gold clutch by Salvatore Ferragamo. She looked nice but I would have opted for a more glamourous make-up: the nude lipstick washes her out a bit.

Kristen Stewart, the protagonist of Snow White and the Huntsman by Rupert Sanders, wore the black dress above when she attended the London premiere of the movie on May 14, 2012. I like the dress but I don’t think it suits Kristen very well: I would have chosen something more Gothic and less romantic for her; the accessories and the make-up work in the direction of making the outfit a bit bland, too. She paired the dress with Kara Ackerman Designs rings and simple black pumps by Jimmy Choo.

This leather cut-out dress has left me a bit baffled, because it apparently has no connection with the rest of the collection. This is one of the models I was referring to while talking about lack of consistency. My memory goes, again, to a dress from the spring/summer 2003 collection by Alexander McQueen, with black leather bodice and completely cut-out flirty skirt. There’s nothing wrong in taking inspiration from a genius like McQueen [2], but they should have found a better way to blend this dress with the other creations.

Eva Longoria wore another piece of this collection while attending the Los Angeles premiere of For Greater Glory by Dean Wright on May 31st, 2012. She paired the cut-out black leather dress with Brian Atwood Maniac pumps and oval satin clutch. She didn’t look bad, but the intricate embellishment of the dress and the drop waist aren’t flattering either.

These two dresses, with red floral embroideries on nude tulle, are other examples of lack of consistency. They have a more romantic mood, if compared to the rest of the collection, and they really stand out as unique pieces. I know my mind tends to overthink, when it comes to analyzing collections, but really, this attitude is stronger than my attempt not to sound obsessively attracted by details.

A part of the collection which surely doesn’t lack consistency is the one which includes tulle (or pleated tulle) and gold embroideries, a match made in Marchesa heaven. Very consistent but maybe a bit boring, this section is red carpet-wise and I’m sure celebrities will do their best to sport these creations to attend important events (the Academy Awards ceremony is just one week away). We’ve seen this combination repeated hundreds of times, but the minor variations are very interesting – embroideries veiled by a tulle overlay, for example.

Gold and silver branches running on the tight bodices of drop-waist dresses are lovely decorations, serving as the ideal backdrop for dramatic tulle skirts, opening up like exotic flowers.

The floral meets the angelic in this dress, whose bodice is embellished by wing-shaped motives. The heavenly effect (or I should better say “sun-piercing-clouds effect”) is also achieved by the use of a gold translucent material, contrasting with the pale lavender/pastel grey tulle applied on it.

Camila Alves, the beautiful partner of Matthew McConaughey, wore this dress when she attended the Cannes premiere of Mud by Jeff Nichols on May 26th, 2012. She looked stunning: the dress is a showstopper but it’s not overwhelming her figure. She kept accessorizing (pendant earrings only) and make-up simple, and styled her hair in soft waves. This is definitely one of the best looks seen on the red carpet of the 65th Cannes Film Festival, and definitely a win for Camila.

Dramatic ballgowns are so Marchesa, and Chapman never leaves this style behind. In this case, she used the well-known contrast between black and white tulle in this princess-like strapless dress, whose waist-line and bodice are emphasized by gold embroideries.

A cloud of ruffled tulle rules another strapless dress. Some may think it’s excessive or even tacky, but I must admit I would like to see it on a red carpet (maybe not in white), because it would surely stop the show.

The gold decorations of the previous dresses now take a different turn: tulle is replaced by a gold, liquid-like fabric, which is probably not satin, but metallic taffeta. The traditional ballgown has cut-out appliqués on the bodice and a full skirt, while the dress on the right has a draped bodice and a rosette-like draping just under the hip (a recurring element in Marchesa collections).

Stacy Keibler, who’s currently George Clooney’s girlfriend, wore the gold strapless dress at the Academy Awards on February 26, 2012. Even if I didn’t choose her as part of my best-dressed list, she looked fabulous. She accessorized the dress with pendant earrings, a gold box clutch and matching René Caovilla sandals.

Though featuring gold embroideries, this dress marks another turn in the collection, based on a different source of inspiration. There’s always a Gothic vibe in Chapman’s designs, ìone of the reasons why I love them so much; in this case, she wanted to give us our dose of Gothic romanticism via the image of the skeleton: the exquisite decorations on tulle retrace the lines of bones. The hem of this dress presents the feather theme again, thus creating a continuum with the previous dresses.

The same concept – floral appliqués on tulle in a skeleton shape – can be found in two of these two outstanding pieces. The dress above features a short-sleeved bodice in sheer tulle with blue decorations and a dramatic ball skirt in white multi-layered tulle.

Rosettes and floral appliqués on sheer tulle are the prelude for the stunning scarlet red taffeta skirt of this dress, which is surely my favourite piece. The draped band at the waist is a nod to the drop-waist silhouette we’ve seen in other dresses, but it’s overwhelmed by the shocking impression of the skirt. Is there anything more romantic and dramatic than this?

I’ve been waiting so long for someone to wear this amazing dress and the most unlikely celebrity – the British singer-songwriter Rita Ora, famous for her flamboyant style – finally wore it. She looked lovely on the red carpet of the MTV European Music Awards 2012, which took place on November 11th in Frankfurt. She kept the rest of the look simple, pairing the dress with scarlet lips and a wavy hairdo.

Christian Louboutin has worked with Chapman and Craig since their debut, so it’s no wonder that he created the shoes for this collection, too. Most of the shoes (peep-toe booties and knee-high boots) were heavily cut-out, while others were decorated by cloud-shaped cut-outs (a reference to the angelic/heaven theme). Some of these shoes were worn with delicate strass-accented tulle socks.

I don’t know why this picture hasn’t appeared on any possible social network! I mean, don’t you get the genius behind this? I’m a die-hard fan of body painting, but this is beyond my expectations! Tulle socks were replaced by a sock-effect gold paint. I don’t know if you agree with me, but I find this detail absolutely sublime and refined.

The bags seen on the models were heavily decorated clutch bags, embellished with silk flowers or pearls on a lace background.

Last but not least, here are some close-ups of the hairstyles seen on the models. I adore these braided updos, because they remind me of the one I sported on my wedding day ♥ Such an updo has a clear Victorian vibe (the reason why I chose it), but it’s not too neat, totally in tune with the romantic atmosphere of the collection.

What are your opinions on this collection? The same old story or interesting innovations?

[1] This theme reminds me of some pieces from Givenchy Haute Couture spring 2011.

[2] For example, this dress from the spring/summer 2012 collection was clearly inspired by a piece from Alexander McQueen spring/summer 2004 collection.




  1. L’impressione è che si stia rimestando un po’ tutti gli elementi che caratterizzano Marchesa per mantenere una riconoscibilità, aggiungendo qui e là delle timide variazioni. Il risultato come per le precedenti collezioni trovo sia altalenante: alcuni pezzi molto buono, altri per nulla. Il vestitino in pelle non è nemmeno tremendo, ma non finisce di convincermi con la colpa più grave di sembrare finito lì per caso. Molto riuscite le prime cinque uscite -prima comunione state of mind- presentate poi, col sopraggiungere delle piume già qualcosa inizia a non funzionare. Molto brutto poi quello in tulle bianco e nero con il corallo d’oro a cingere il punto vita e il busta: donna sotto le stelle 1994. E terribili tutte le calzature, epic fail proprio.
    Promossi i primi cinque, l’8, il 9, il 10 e il 25.

    1. E’ evidente come nelle loro collezioni non ci sia una gran ricerca dal punto di vista sartoriale – i tagli sono sempre quelli, più o meno – e questo è un gran punto debole. E’ come se non ci fosse alcuna evoluzione reale, ma solo, come noti giustamente tu, un riproporre modelli già visti. La loro collezione f/w 2011 – che la stampa non ha molto apprezzato, e le celebrities nemmeno – invece a me è piaciuta, appunto perché lì c’è stato un timido tentativo di uscire dal seminato. Ad ogni modo, nonostante tutto sono ancora convinta che molte loro creazioni siano eccelse, ed è giusto apprezzarle in quanto tali, senza però dimenticare il contesto creativo in cui si inseriscono.

  2. Non sono un’esperta di moda e quindi i miei commenti sono dettati solamente dal gusto personale, detto ciò, Marchesa è un brand che mi ha sempre affascinata. Forse perché esprime quel gusto tipicamente americano dell’eccesso o forse perché richiama il mondo delle favole, non so, di sicuro i modelli proposti – è vero, piuttosto ripetitivi – sono un trionfo di femminilità e lusso.
    Se fossi invitata a sfilare su un red carpet, penso che sceglierei il modello a dx della foto 5 oppure quello sempre a dx della foto 7 con quel vago sentore di anni ’30.

    1. Concordo: più che gli abiti in se, quello che affascina è il mondo – prettamente hollywoodiano – che evocano. Non a caso, Marchesa nasce come un marchio da red carpet perché è quella la sua dimensione naturale.

      Il mio abito preferito è senz’altro l’ultimo, quel meraviglioso trionfo di rosso, ma quello che porterei più volentieri è quello dell’immagine 3.

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