Claire Pettibone: "An Earthly Paradise" & Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Bridget Swift
Bridal Blogger

Three years ago, while working with a historic garment and textile collection, I was captivated with the wedding gowns and dresses. I began following the work of designers who brought the elegance and romance of the past to the present while infusing it with an understanding of what it entails to be a modern bride. 

It was purely by chance that I stumbled upon the work of  Claire Pettibone --in her creations, I had definitely found elegance. I have followed  Pettibone�s collections ever since, enthralled with her historical and artistic inspirations. As an art history student and student of fashion, her work had a direct, visceral appeal. Over the fashion seasons, Pettibone has expanded from her hub in California to a national and now international audience.  Her trunk shows are increasingly appearing in the UK. But honestly, who could resist?

When Claire Pettibone releases a new collection, I feel as if she has stumbled upon a new history book and creates her collections to share the love she has for her new discovery. Her gowns act as time machines or enchanted garments, transporting the wearer away from the present and into a beautiful world of Pettibone�s creating. Last year, we examined her Windsor China Rose selection.  (See blog archive, October 2012.) Her latest collection, An Earthly Paradise, is a view of the world through rose-colored glasses. Using the work of Victorian-era artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema as her inspiration, Pettibone breathes new life into the floral trend that is soft rather than suffocating. Alma-Tadema�s Victorian era work made him one of the most popular and highly paid artists of the time. His work was rooted in his love of the ancient world, from the white marble of Greece, to the banks of the Nile. 
One of Alma-Tedema�s most famous works, The Roses of Heliogabalusis (1888, Private Collection), depicts a scene from the life of a Roman emperor who smothered his guests with rose petals. This painting served as Pettibone�s backdrop for the collection�s runway show -- the gowns appeared to rise from the rose petals that spilled from the painting and onto the catwalk. Like the petals, Pettibone�s beautiful creations leapt from their ethereal homes a into the wedding plans of brides today. Claire Pettibone is a pioneer for the unique bride, going against the one-note dress. I will look forward to her next collection.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (8 January 1836-25 June 1912).

About Bridget Swift:
A gradate of Wheaton College in Norton, MA., Bridget is currently Research & Marketing Associate at Silk Damask Consulting. She has worked as an archival and curatorial assistant at both Wheaton College and Strawbery Banke Museum.

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