The importance of storytelling is clear in Anna Sui’s collections, which conjure an imaginary world of Icelandic princesses, pirates, fairies, Vikings and enchanted animals. Complementing these historical and fantastical figures, her runway shows have featured whimsical, surreal accessories from animal hats to gingerbread handbags.
This dress was inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte and the introduction of the Empire style to France in the early nineteenth century.
Sui gave the gown a punk makeover by cutting it off mid-thigh. She created a series of these dresses in silk chiffon and crepe de Chine printed with hearts, roses, stripes and polka dots. Worn with petticoats and produced in a combination of red, white, and black, they recalled the designs of interior decorator Dorothy Draper, who was known for her dramatic deployment of black and white, as well as the punk clothes worn by members of the New York Dolls. Sui recalls, “Back in the 1970s, if you were part of the rock scene or if you went to clubs like Max’s or CBGB, you only wore red, white or black. Everything was heavily codified.” The French Empire, too, was governed by rigid codes, and this provided the link for Sui’s collection. The Dorothy Draper Pirate ensemble is from Sui’s spring 2007 collection.
Photographed in the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC.