September 14, 2008
Last year, the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London mounted an exhibition of the art of book illustration between the 1890's and the 1920's. It was called The Age of Enchantment, and it clearly made an impression on Alice Temperley, whose new collection was a feast of graphic flourishes culled from the work of people like Aubrey Beardsley and Edmund Dulac. The black detailing on a little white bolero, for instance, was evocative of Beardsley's line, while a draped white gown, gathered at the shoulders, looked like something a Dulac maiden might've worn. But the years covered by the exhibition were also the time of Bright Young Things in England and in Hollywood. It was easy to imagine Cecil Beaton's party girls dressing up as Diana the Huntress in one of Temperley's little silk tunics paired with gladiator sandals. And Rudolph Valentino's vampy arm candy would have gravitated toward harem pants in a black and white leopard print.
Temperley called her collection "Romantic Odyssey," a pretty accurate description of the surfeit of ruffles, flounces, and classical draping. There were still outbreaks of that old Temperley sugariness (a floral romper suit, for instance), but the designer was tempered by a new sophistication. That made this a strong collection with which to return home after several seasons showing in New York.