Monday, April 16, 2012

Homework Assignment: Pre-Raphaelites as the Anti-Steampunk

"The Crystal Ball"
by John William Waterhouse
This month's homework from Le Professeur Gothique* was "create an outfit, meal, photo shoot, art work, etc. based on your most favorite piece of visual art or your favorite artist." Oft beloved among goths with a Victorian aesthetic are the Pre-Raphaelites, a group of 19th-century painters & poets founded by Dante Gabriel Rossetti & friends. They are a favorite artistic movement of mine too, particularly because of how they rebelled against the "modernity" of the Industrial Revolution.

In some ways, the Pre-Raphaelites are the anti-steampunks -- where the current steampunk trend celebrates the retro machinery, gears, goggles, & steam that powered Victorian concepts of progress, the Pre-Raphs despised all of that & harkened back to a supposedly simpler time, where individual artisans hand-crafted everything. While the 19th century was a time of railroads & factories, the Pre-Raphaelites longed for more pastoral scenes. In an era of rapid scientific advancement, these artists placed emotional response & expression of creative ideas foremost.  All of this is reflected in Pre-Raphaelite paintings with visions of King Arthur's court, the Lady of Shallot, Romeo & Juliet, nymphs & satyrs, Dante & Beatrice, & other scenes from a rose-colored past.
"I Am Half Sick of Shadows,
Said the Lady of Shalott"
by John William Waterhous

Even the clothing imagery of the movement rejects the dominant Victorian paradigm. Pre-Raphs depict people, especially women, in long, flowing gowns of a vaguely medieval style, which is in direct contrast to the highly structured corsets & hoops or bustles of the time or even men's stiff suits. The ideal Pre-Raphaelite women wore long, luxurious hair flowing in the wind instead of the tightly curled, padded, & restrained hairstyles of proper Victorian ladies. 

The official Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood only lasted from 1848 to about 1860, but the artistic influence lasted up until World War I in Britain. In fact, my favorite artist John William Waterhouse painted most of his major works in the early 20th century. I also love Edward Burne-Jones, who was a later Pre-Raph painter. The movement's connection to nature had a strong influence on the next great style Art Nouveau in the 1910s, which I'm quite fond of too.

Today's outfit is about as far as I could go with an office-friendly Pre-Raphaelite look -- conveniently, this dress just arrived in the mail! I bought it with a gift card I got for my birthday from my mother-in-law. Not sure if I'll wear it to work often, certainly not if I have meetings. This is a bit too casual, imo (yeah yeah, I work in a casual office, but this doesn't suit my work persona ;-). It'll be a fun dress for hanging out with friends & my hubbi.

And coincidentally, my nails almost match the dress. I'd painted them before attending a costume event this weekend without even looking at this dress.

What I'm wearing:
Red crushed velvet dress, Macy's | Black elastic belt, NY & Company | Black tights, Calvin Klein | Black lace-up, spool-heel boots, Target | Black, pearl, & crystal necklace, random accessory store | Jet hoop earrings, random accessory store | Silver & garnet poison ring, eBay

 *Yes, I'm turning in my homework late. Again. Let's just all agree that I'm getting a "C" this semester! My post-post-graduate work is totally on the back-burner compared to office work & other hobbies, sorry ;-)


  1. I love this look! I am definitely drawn to the more romantic side of Goth at times and this certainly fits the bill. I do have to laugh that you think it's casual; me sitting over here in my jeans and all. :)

  2. Amazing dress! That fabric catches the light in a very interesting way. I agree with previous talker, for me it looks festive :)

  3. Oh, THANK YOU! I have a pamflet, in wich John Waterhouse's The lady of Shalott is, and couldn't find it anywhere!

    You are so lucky the dress arrived, it looks so elegant with that nice ruffled belt!

  4. that dress is such a perfect 21st century meets medieval look. love it.

    Lynn Brooks

  5. sigh ... that is one dreamy, dreamy dress! You look absolutely fantastic and extremely PRB! I adore the PRB and I especially love teaching them, Ruskin and the "oh so influential" William Morris (Arts and Crafts, Kelmscott Press).

    Have you read Linda Merrill's "A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in Whistler -vs- Ruskin?" An must read -- the Aesthetic Movement -vs- PRB -- very entertaining and informative!

    Thanks for participating!