alice's coat


So I decided to update my coat of arms and redo it in watercolor. I took the opportunity to do two others I had in mind as well. They function in-universe in my version of Alice in Wonderland; should probably to get to work on that and introduce everyone soon.

Yes, I made postcards out of these for MoCCA, sadly I didn’t sell much. If anyone wants some, send me a message.

Quid est vita, nisi somnium? - What is life, if not a dream?
Obéissez ou révoltez - Obey or revolt
Corona mea, victoria tuus. - My crown, your victory.


Costume designer Colleen Atwood went above and beyond, both literally and figuratively, for her creations of the Alice in Wonderland movie, which was directed by Tim Burton. Throughout the movie Alice is sipping from vials and eating delicious cakes that make her grow and shrink. Alice goes from a normal-sized girl, to being tiny as a teapot, to towering over red rose bushes. Since I saw the film, I have always been mesmerized by the creative ways Alice changes costume. As a lover of fashion I enjoyed the imaginative way the design team reused fabrics from her previous too big or too small dresses to match the size of Alice - each one more amazing than the last. 

Alice starts in a light blue, traditional Victorian dress. The costumes we see throughout the film were created with the idea that they were made from the several layers underneath the original dress to accommodate her growing and shrinking - eventually transforming into three different outfits. After Alice first drinks the “Drink me” potion and eats the “Eat me” cake, she sprouts and shrinks disproportional sizes to her clothing. Even when the ferocious dog, the Bandersnatch, scratches her arm, her outfit is ripped and results in a halter dress.  Another fine detail to notice is that her adorable arm-bands that seem part of her dresses are really bandages that wrap around her wound.

As Alice shrunk and grew, her dress would not. This leaves Alice puzzling over what to wear throughout the film. First, she improvises a halter and quadruple-wrapped ribbon belt to hoist up her underskirt. Then, when she shrinks again, the Mad Hatter fashions a teeny dress for her to change into inside a teapot. Next, when she suddenly grows out of this garment and ends up gigantic and naked at the royal court, the Red Queen orders, “Clothe this enormous girl!” At this point, Alice is given an asymmetrical black, white, red gown. In each iteration, Alice’s dress gains a detail—black trim, contrasting colors, a stripe—that recalls a certain auteur’s visual language. Alice gets Burtonized." 

- Colleen Atwood describes her vision for Alice’s dresses. 

While at the White Queen’s castle, Alice finally returns to her normal size by drinking a potion consisting of: a pinch of worm fat, urine of a horsefly, buttered fingers, three coins from a dead man’s pocket, two teaspoons of wishful thinking and comically, a glob of spit from the Queen herself. Alice shrinks into the red dress she acquired from the Red Queen, which was made makeshift from the curtains in the palace. As she shrinks roughly 5 feet, the final red dress fits her by becomes a tulle-layered ball gown.

The metamorphosis of Alice’s clothing was one of the quirkiest details of the film. The process of reusing and reworking Alice’s dresses as she changes sizes could only come from the visionary minds of Burton and Atwood. Next time you watch the film, be sure to take note of the costume changes! I can count eight in all, including her battle armor and her final blue-buttoned coat. 

When Achilles’ arms grew weary from the killing
he plucked out of the river ten young men alive
as blood payment for the killing of Patroklos,
Menoetius’ son. He led them up onto dry land
like stupefied fawns, tied their hands behind them
using belts they wore around their woven tunics
and gave them to his men to lead back to the ships.
Then he jumped in again, eager to keep killing.

Iliad XXI.32-46, trans. Ian Johnston

Like fawns running over a field
Suddenly give up and stand
Puzzled in their heavy coats.

Memorial, Alice Oswald