Wednesday, March 5, 2014

OTT Classic Inspiration: Empress Elisabeth of Austria

 Seeing as it's Women's History Month, I figured it would be appropriate to discuss one of my historical lolita fashion inspirations: Empress Elisabeth of Austria.I've come across paintings of Empress Elisabeth a few times during my studies and have always found her elegant garments striking, but it was only after coming across an image of the gown from her Hungarian coronation (seen at left, and further below) that I really realized her potential as inspiration for classic lolita style. Characters such as Alice and Anne of Green Gables are sometimes cited as inspirational for toned down sweet-classic styles, but in my opinion, for the increasingly-popular OTT classic style, Empress Sisi is the figure to emulate. While she may have had her own problems and plenty of habits which you wouldn't want to mimic, her fashions are definitely worthy of praise.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Queen of Hungary, also called "Sisi," was a Bavarian-born monarch of the mid-late 19th Century. Though she ruled Austria for 44 years, she found the atmosphere of the court stifling and often traveled around the continent alone, developing a deep kinship with the rulers of the more relaxed Hungary. She helped to bring about the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, and she was also a huge fashion icon, both during her life and afterwards. Unfortunately, she suffered with severe anxiety, anorexia, and depression for most of her life, particularly after the death of her children.

If you find Empress Elisabeth's style inspiring like I do, you should know that we're in good company! Not only has she personally been portrayed in many films and plays over the past century, but her sense of style has cropped up in other productions as well. If you've seen the 2005 movie rendition of Phantom of the Opera, the dress at the left probably looks very familiar to you; Sisi's get-up in the portrait "Empress Elisabeth of Austria with Diamond Stars on Her Hair" by Franz Xaver Winterhalter served as inspiration for one of Emmy Rosum's stage costumes in the film.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria's gown for her coronation as Queen of Hungary
Empress Sisi's Hungarian coronation gown, as mentioned above

Empress Sisi's Style

If you want to emulate the empress yourself in a classic lolita coordinate, here are a items you should consider including:
  • Thick, complex braids
  • Luxurious materials befitting a queen and empress, such as velvet, rhinestones, and pearls
  • Natural elements like ivy wreaths, flowers, sea shells, or jewels which mimic the stars
  • Purple, her favorite color, or other jewel tones, which suited her pale complexion and dark hair, though she also wore quite a bit of ivory
  • Necklines that show a generous amount of decollete or corsets with waspish waistlines, as these were fashionable during her reign
  • Accessories: gloves, fans, and double-stranded pearl necklaces were all favored by the empress
  • Hair pieces: tiaras, flower wreaths, and veils, because how could you not?!
For this Sisi-style coordinate, I took inspiration from the luxurious styles of the European royal courts of the nineteenth century. Lavish fabrics like velvet and chiffon combine with naturally-opulent materials like gold and pearls, and an elegant corset emphasizes the waist and decollete. Elisabeth often spent hours at a time getting her hair done, so this outfit is paired with artistically-wrought braids and a golden flower-motif crown. I included as many items as I could which created a juxtaposition between the natural and the luxurious, as these motifs played out in the empress's fashion statements quite often.

Who is your fashion inspiration? 

If there are any other historical fashionistas you'd like to see featured,
let me know in the comment section below!

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