When Alice happens upon a curious patch of anthropomorphic pansies, roses and tiger lilies, she’s transfixed by their beauty and their candour – a respite from the uncertain landscape of Wonderland. She stays with them a while before being unceremoniously ousted back into the fantasy underworld.
Though the story of Alice in Wonderland, first published in 1865 and made into a Disney animation nearly 100 years later, is a cautionary tale, the character has long been considered a poster girl for the psychedelic era: a hippie seeking enlightenment by journeying through one long, confusing hallucination.
This season, Alice could easily be a metaphor for us all. The prevalence of optimistic blooms on the spring runways was a joyful counter to the doom and gloom of the real world. Marc Jacobs, for example, sent Kaia Gerber down the runway swathed in patchwork layers of glistening flowers. The collection, which also included a vibey floral three-piece suit, was the designer’s commentary on pleasure-seeking. (His show notes spoke of a very groovy-sounding “world of hope and joy and beauty and colour and diversity and equality and individuality.”) At Paco Rabanne, bright-red begonias snaked up the legs of a mod pantsuit while flat op-art versions consumed a knit dress. Christopher Kane, who has lately co-opted the phrase “More Joy” as his label’s MO, sent walking daisy fields down the runway in the form of a structured sheath dress, a ruffled mini skirt and a tailored trench coat.
This revisitation of these righteous mod motifs should come as no surprise: There are plenty of parallels between today’s tense political climate and the ’60s, when the Flower Power movement originated as a method of protesting the Vietnam War. (In a November 1965 essay titled “How to Make a March/Spectacle,” beat poet Allen Ginsberg suggested that protesters be provided with “masses of flowers” to hand out to policemen, press, politicians and spectators.) The sartorial popularity of these bold florals spread with the era’s psychedelic proclivities. The looks, comprising maximalist pattern mixes like florals on zigzags in vibrant hues, were often worn to enhance trippy “experiences.” The bigger the blooms, one assumed, the more freewheeling the wearer’s own sensibilities.
Fifty years later, those once all-consuming florals were dispersed in targeted, potent smatterings in many of spring’s most impactful shows, which makes sense given that we are living in the era of the microdose. Today, psychedelics are on the rise with a surprising subsect: wellness seekers who swear that ingesting tiny amounts of mind-altering substances can combat depression and other emotional ailments. After all, we aren’t carefree, floral-loving hippies anymore; we’ve become too efficient. But we’re still looking for a tidier distillation of that same joy, and maybe we’re searching for a version of the story in which Alice gets to stay among the flowers just a little bit longer.
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