A new retrospective celebrates Lewis Carroll’s Alice and her influence beyond literature.
By Erica Wagner. What do Vivienne Westwood, Deborah Kerr, and Aerosmith have in common? If you think that sounds like a question worthy of the Mad Hatter, you’re not far off – but at least this riddle has a solution. The answer is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece was published 150 years ago in 1865, and what’s striking about the celebrations this has occasioned is the reminder offered that Alice’s influence has not been confined to literature alone. Since May 2, the V& A Museum of Childhood in London’s Bethnal Green has been marking the anniversary with an exhibition, ‘The Alice Look,’ which brings together clothing, images, rare editions, and illustrations to give us Alice, not only as a literary heroine, but as a cultural trendsetter, too.
Curator Kiera Vaclavik, a senior lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, specialising in children’s literature and culture says, Alice’s influence is all around us. “People who have never read the book know what she looks like,” she tells me. “This is thanks, in large part to John Tenniel’s iconic illustrations, which, I must confess, scared me half to death when I first saw them as a girl. So I’m not sorry to hear her say that the exhibition ‘defamiliarises’ Alice, showing how fashion has influenced images of her, and how she in turn has influenced fashion.” ALICE THROUGH
THE AGE S starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Anne Hathaway
Tim Burton’s bigscreen reimagining of Alice in Wonderland,
Walt Disney’s animated film Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland book cover by Vivienne Westwood