Cannes 2017: The Inspiration Behind Elle Fanning’s Vivienne Westwood ‘Unicorn’ Gown

Posted on May 19, 2017

Based on the iconic Bird of Paradise gown, originally seen in the Spring-Summer 2005 Gold Label show – Ultra Femininity, the couture gown was especially created for Elle Fanning for Cannes Film Festival 2017.

The gown was originally inspired by 17th and 18th century Salon culture; a melting pot of arts, literature, politics and the sharing of intellect between high-society women. The fashion and style of these sophisticated women originally drew Vivienne to study corsetry, the art of bustling flamboyant skirts and exaggerated feminine silhouettes- playing with the proportion of the female form.

Especially created for Elle by the Vivienne Westwood couture team, in the London atelier, with a strapless corset in snowdrop white duchess silk satin, draped and bustled in abundance, the gown commands attention and encapsulates the grandeur of the Baroque age, whilst remaining faithful to Vivienne’s strong belief, that femininity ought to be celebrated.

The gown was created, firstly, through personalized design sketches – which were then realized by the couture team into a calico toile, constructed and tailored to the body. At this stage came the collaborative idea to customize the gown especially for the occasion.

The inspiration for the hand-painted design was originally from the Franz Hals’ painting of the Laughing Cavalier (1624), which is housed in The Wallace Collection, London, where the 17th & 18th-century paintings have remained a strong source of inspiration for Vivienne & Andreas.

Hand-painted in ebony, white, and neon & fuchsia pink paint, the reimagined print references the Hollywood starlet – depicting planets, shooting stars named ‘Elle’, planet Gaia, and the iconic Westwood orb, and especially requested by the young actress- a mythical unicorn…




[Photo Credit: Courtesy of Vivienne Westwood, Getty Images]

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