Vivienne used the body as a vehicle for the imaginary. In her Spring-Summer 1991 ‘Cut, Slash & Pull’ collection, Sara Stockbridge closed the show as an unconventional bride, carrying her newborn son. She appeared wrapped in a dress printed with Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s 1797 painting, ‘The Swarm of Cupids’. As the name suggests, the painting displays a group of cherubic figures, gracefully suspended in the clouds. Vivienne offered a sense of grandeur through a voluminous silhouette. The fabric followed the soft hues and subtle shading of the original artwork, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of heaven. The print also features within the following ‘Dressing Up’ collection of Autumn-Winter 1991.
As articulated by fashion journalist Alexander Fury, such pieces ‘amplify Vivienne’s ambition to relate to the concept of the classical - from the Renaissance to the 19th century, from Victorianism to early modernism.’ The Autumn-Winter 2014/15 ‘Save the Rainforest’ collection further echoed this notion, with a bridal gown recalling Franz Xavier Winterhalter’s 1865 portrait of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. The original piece was a white satin evening dress, covered with thousands of silver foil stars, shimmering under a layer of tulle. With this gown, Vivienne and Andreas offered a contemporary play on the full crinoline ballgown, with a full-skirted bridal piece, adorned with exaggerated layers of filmy tulle.
The Autumn-Winter 1997/98 collection 'Five Centuries Ago' further recalled the art world, through garments inspired by court costumes of Renaissance England, specifically in the age of Gloriana. Inspired in part by Dynasties, an exhibition of Tudor and Jacobean portraits at London's Tate in early 1996, the collection's closing bridal look - a farthingale-skirted gown, worn by Alek Wek - included a pattern of fantastical land and sea beasts on silk, executed by the Zurich silk specialist Fabric Frontline. Emulating the bodices seen in Tudor portraits, accompanied by a traditional standing collar, the gown replicated a design worn by Elizabeth I, in a late 16th-century portrait on display in Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, close to where Vivienne grew up.