The National Portrait Gallery has become a regular show venue for Erdem Moralioglu, but this season it was an ideal backdrop for a collection inspired by the life of Princess Orietta Pogson Doria Pamphilj, the fantastically wealthy Italian aristocrat and art lover. Her story — and especially her work to conserve her family’s art and vast property holdings, including a 1,000-room Roman palazzo with paintings by Titian, Caravaggio, Raphael and Velasquez — grabbed Erdem, who designed his fall collection around her.
The show progressed much like a parade of oil paintings or formal photographs, with models in saturated colors, shiny brocades, black velvet bows and lace, while silhouettes spanned the ages from Edwardian to the Sixties. There was a rustle of silk train here, a Fifties circle skirt or swing coat there, and a nod to papal pomp in the form of a long, red lace dress with a lavish collar, the latter recalling Pamphilj’s ancestor, Pope Innocent X, who began amassing the family’s art collection.
It was a sober outing, and veered all too often into costume territory, with the volumes and fabrics fit more for a woman ready to sit for a Cecil Beaton portrait rather than dash to a dinner postwork, or to even to a formal event. There were some beautiful pieces here; a long green dress with pink embroidery that recalled the lavish interiors of a Mediterranean villa; a white tiered dress dotted with black bows; and the bejeweled twinsets.
The styling was terrific, too, with lots of lacy tights and shoes with low heels and buckles at the front. Although this was a toast to old-world sophistication, and to women of great taste, it may have been just too much for the 21st-century lady.