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Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave (into our clothes): Spiderweb Motifs in Fashion

When we saw these spiderweb shoes in a vintage catalogue from the 1920s, our jaws totally dropped! Bada-bing-bada-boom, now we have Parker Vintage Shoes, resplendent in all her spidery goodness.

Original advertisement for the spiderweb shoes we based Parker on.
Original pair of spiderweb shoes!

Spiderwebs are a motif that have weaved their way into many a fashion aesthetic. Of course, spiderwebs have been popular in Gothic and Halloweeny aesthetics over the years. But, they have also popped up in Victorian fashion, in 1920s fashion, and in iconic Hollywood costumes.

Late Victorian-era shoes with a beaded spiderweb motif, from the collection at the Met Museum.

Spiderwebs are an especially evocative motif. Spiders and their webs have long been symbolically tied to women, and the caricature of the ‘vamp’ in particular. They are also evocative of nature, destiny and the macabre. Ergo, spiders and spiderwebs are classic motifs for fashions that dabble in these aesthetics.

Silent film actress Louise Glaum in a very cool and sexy spiderweb-themed costume from the movie The Wolf Woman, 1916. Glaum’s character in the film, Leila, is a femme fatale of sorts. This sort of ‘black widow’ symbolism is likely why the costume designer chose spiders and spiderwebs as motifs for her wardrobe.

Belle Epoque French actress Jeanne Dirys in some vampy spiderweb photos from the early 1900s. Okay, the dress isn’t exactly spiderweb themed in these, but they simply had to be included!

Design for chiffon evening dress with spiderweb motifs, from the collection at the V&A Museum.

This design by Jean Paquin for their winter 1917 collection features black chiffon with silvery spiderweb motifs on the skirt and bodice.

Early 1920s dress design with a spiderweb motif, from the collection at the V&A Museum.

In this fashion design from 1921, you can see the early development of iconic 1920s silhouettes and shapes. Designed by Jules De Ban, this drapey, floaty chiffon dress was designed to be worn at a garden party; this is likely why the spiderwebs are incorporated. Spiderweb motifs can be spotted on one of the skirt’s layers and on the bodice. If a spider crawls onto your dress from the garden, all the better!

There were some truly stunning spiderweb-themed designs in the 1920s (continuing our love affair with all things 20s!). The delicate, shimmery nature of the spiderweb was a perfect match for 1920s aesthetics that incorporated beads, sparkle, and naturalistic themes.

This absolutely stunning 1920s dress features a beaded spiderweb motif over a mint green chiffon slip. This dress is actually for sale if you are so inclined!

An absolutely gorgeous silvery spiderweb dress from Vionnet, from 1927. The name of this dress is “Araignée”- spider!

This late-1920s dress from the House of Vionnet is named “Araignée”, which means “spider”. Madeleine Vionnet was a very important designer in the 1920s. She is sometimes called the “Queen of the bias cut”, as she helped popularize the bias cut technique in design. Mme. Vionnet was inspired by nature and the natural female form, which resulted in many incredibly beautiful and diaphanous designs that are quintessentially 1920s. We may have to do an entirely separate blog post about Mme. Vionnet…

You may have seen this photograph before- it’s a bit famous. This gown combines a simplified spiderweb motif with a delicious 1930s silhouette. Methinks this gown would go equally perfectly with a pair of Parker Shoes or one of our 1930s surrealism inspired styles from our collaboration with Karolina Żebrowska. Just gotta get that time machine finished…

Mae West in I’m No Angel (1933)

One of Mae West’s costumes in I’m No Angel was this amazing 1930s ensemble. This film is super interesting if you haven’t heard of it before; West is credited as the sole screenplay writer, and as it was pre-Hayes code, it was subjected to less censorship than some of her later films. Great Depression-era audiences really resonated with West’s portrayal of a woman “from the wrong side of the tracks”, which helped make I’m No Angel a huge success. But I digress…

Onward! Spiders and spiderwebs continued to show up through the 1940s and 1950s- especially the 50s. The 1950s loved themes and motifs!

Spiderweb motif shift dress from Aldens department store, from a 1950s catalogue.

This 1950s spiderweb dress from Aldens department store is a coveted and rare vintage item, and understandably so! If you ever come across one, snap it up right away!

Another famous Aldens design from 1949. Spiderwebs and roses! Just $5.98!
1950s spiderweb circle skirt

You’ve heard of poodle skirts; how about spider skirt? This skirt was probably made for wearing around Halloween.

Of course, it doesn’t end at the 1950s. Spiderwebs have continued to show up on runways, in catalogues, and in stores, up through the modern day (especially in autumn). If you are looking for spiderweb-themed outfits, there are lots of reproduction vintage options out there, and if you sew, the possibilities are pretty endless!

Remember the Aldens spiderweb dress from earlier? Well, if you want to make your own, Gertie has a video how-to.

Samantha Bullat (@couturecourtesan on Instagram) created this absolutely stunning early-1920s gown with a spiderweb cape for a Halloween party this year, and donned said stunning gown for a lifestyle shoot with Parker shoes! We are totally inspired, and absolutely obsessed with the photos. This gown and these shoes were meant to be!

Samantha documented the sewing process over on YouTube, and you should totally go watch it. Watch it ten times! It’s amazing! Samantha is amazing!

Our Parker Vintage Shoes are accurate to the 1920s through the 1960s, but we think they are timeless. Get yours with a nice $20/€20 discount in black, merlot, purple, or green through November 11!

All Hallows
Pre-Order October 28 – November 11, 2022
$20/€20 discount per pair
Women’s USA sizes 5 – 12

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