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Pre-Raphaelite "Ophelia"- Waterhouse Inspired Gown
pre-raphaelite gown with slashed sleeves inspired by waterhouse
The original brief was to design a gown based on a combination of two Waterhouse paintings: the famous "Ophelia" (1905 - blue dress embellished with lions rampant around the hem), and "Ophelia by the pond" (1894 - white gown, again emblazoned with heraldic golden lions). Midst consultation with the client, we added inspiration from another Waterhouse painting: the slashed sleeves of the painting,"The Lady Clare" (1900).
Green silk gown inspired by the Waterhouse paintings: Lady Clare and Ophelia pre-raphaelite gown with slashed sleeves inspired by waterhouse Green silk gown inspired by the Waterhouse paintings: Lady Clare and Ophelia
Part of the initial brief was for a fabric more "rustic" than the usual sumptuous silks I favour(!) and with less sheen. We almost used one of the more heavily "slubbed" silk dupions, where colour choices are vast, but kept returning to silk matka which seemed to fit the bill nicely - albeit with fewer colours to choose from. It seemed ideal for our proposed "Pagan/ Peasant/ Pre-raphaelite Princess". The main gown was constructed in a sage green matka silk, cut through in "princess line". A belt worn at upper hip level helped to achieve the perfect Pre-Raphaelite silhouette.
Green silk gown inspired by the Waterhouse paintings: Lady Clare and Ophelia pre-raphaelite gown with slashed sleeves inspired by waterhouse Green silk gown inspired by the Waterhouse paintings: Lady Clare and Ophelia
Lions rampant, interspersed with pomegranates (a nod towards the famous "Proserpine" painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti) were appliquéd around the gold silk hem. The sleeves fitted quite tightly to upper and lower arm, slashed at the elbow to reveal the silk underdress. The same false under-chemise detail is at the shoulder to imply the dress beneath. Brown leather thong for lacing in "Lady Clare" style, blended nicely with the matka, which looks very like linen - without the creasing tendancies.
Back view of Waterhouse dress in soft sage green with leather lacing
Above: a backview of the gown - laced with leather thong - and details of the neckline and appliqué-work.

source material including the Waterhouse paintings - Lady Clare and Ophelia

Waterhouse was very fond of using the same gown on different models for different paintings. Miranda in "The Tempest" and "Fair Rosamund" both wear the same blue dress as the 1910 "Ophelia" in the woods (only Ophelia is adorned with heraldic symbols).

"It was the time when Lilies blow,
And clouds are highest up in air,
Lord Ronald brought a lily-white doe,
To give to his cousin, Lady Clare.

I throw they did not part in scorn:
Lovers long-betrothed were they:
They two will wed the morrow morn,-
God's blessing on the day!"

Lady Clare: Alfred, Lord Tennyson

As part of their promotion of the Waterhouse exhibition at the Royal Academy, and coinciding with the BBC's "Desperate Romantics", the Telegraph asked to use images of "Flaming Autumn" and "Ophelia". See these and other Pre-Raphaelite inspiration in the Fashion pages of the Telegraph online.

This design can be varied and individualised
to each made-to-measure order.

Copyright © 2008-2012 Theresa Blake. All Rights Reserved.