How Lewis Carroll’s Alice has influenced us for 150 years

The V&A Museum of Childhood is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by looking at how the character is both “a follower of fashion and a trend setter”.

Poster advertising ladies boots manufactured by T Elliot & Sons, incorporating a pastiche of designs after Aubrey Beardsley. 1960s © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Poster advertising ladies boots manufactured by T Elliot & Sons, incorporating a pastiche of designs after Aubrey Beardsley. 1960s © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Alice Look brings together rare editions and illustrations as well as garments, photographs and other media which show her influence on popular culture.

In what looks to be quite an in depth study the exhibition will take in everything from photographs by Annie Leibovitz to book cover designs by Vivienne Westwood and even Japanese Lolita clothing.

As a whole the content of the exhibition shows Alice’s shifting style and how she has always reflected contemporary trends.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Sir John Tenniel, 1886
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Sir John Tenniel, 1886

On the one hand she has strongly influenced the way people dress and on the other she has inspired designers and stylists the world over for 150 years.

The exhibition ends with a commission by Josie Smith, a pattern cutter for Roksanda Ilincic who is creating Alice’s Wonderland outfit using a copy of the book to make a paper dress.

Set out in four parts the exhibition begins with Beginnings, where visitors will find Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations alongside garments which bring to life the Victorian-era Alice.

Molly Molloy illustration © Molly Molloy
Molly Molloy illustration © Molly Molloy

Follower of Fashion spotlights the illustrators who have kept Alice up to date through the various 20th century republications of Wonderland.

This gives way to Inspiration where we see how people dress like Alice or wear clothes made in her image. Their stories are told through objects and an AV section, which looks at pop videos and catwalk shows.

Global Alice looks at how the character is portrayed differently across the world – including Provençal Alice who wears tropézienne sandals and a sundress, while Swahili Alice sports a local kanga.

Baby the stars shine bright, Kumiko Uehara, Japan © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Baby the stars shine bright, Kumiko Uehara, Japan © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Alice Look is a free exhibition at The V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9PA

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