Dreaming Eli: The Dead Woman Talks Back | LFW AW24

‘If sex is death, kiss me deadly.’ For A/W24 collection “The Dead Woman Talks Back”, Dreaming Eli invites us to deconstruct the idea of a fallen woman, demanding that we accept the wilderness and darkness within ourselves. All in a finely crafted corset. 

Sky-high platforms with silk ribbons. Form-fitting corsets in flesh tones. Delicate pearl embellishments. Balletcore and girlhood might have been buzzwords on the fashion crowd’s minds – and algorithms – all of 2023, but Sicilian designer Elisa Trombatore’s affinity for feminine aesthetics has been apparent since her Central Saint Martins days. Debuting her label Dreaming Eli at London Fashion Week in 2021 with the support of DiscoveryLAB, the CSM alumna’s brand featuring deconstructed lingerie and intricate corsetry quickly becoming a LFW regular and celebrity favourite. In fact, the final bridal look from the latest collection went straight from the catwalk to the annual British Vogue Fashion & Film party, as seen on Bree Runway. 

For the Autumn/Winter 2024 collection “The Dead Woman Talks Back” guests were invited to worship at the altar of fashion. The Gothic-revival church of St Cyprian’s was the perfect venue to rebel against themes of romanticised death and female purity. Models floated high above the ground in uber tall platforms fastened with satin ribbons, reminiscent of spectral ballerinas, raised from the dead to challenge ideas of what it means to be a woman. Stereotypically feminine attributes often observed in art and literature were held by models, with desire and temptation symbolised by objects like the infamous red apple or a coquettish fan, others teasing the senses with perfume and soft white feathers. One model admired herself in a decorative vintage mirror, a personification of vanity. The woman herself becomes an object, one to be admired, but also judged by society if she chooses to act on her own desires. Dreaming Eli imagines a woman who is empowered to talk back, inspired by one of the rare Victorian voices to represent the female gaze, poet Cristina Rossetti. 

For her latest collection, Trombatore stuck to her signature colour palette of dirty pinks, bone whites and inky blacks, while intricate corsetry, delicate lace and distressed chiffon continued to be de rigueur. However, this season Dreaming Eli expanded their repertoire to include streetwear inspired looks in the form of embroidered cropped t-shirts worn under corsets and deconstructed denim pieces using upcycled Vintage Mexico and USA Levi’s jeans. In addition, the inclusion of simple sheer bonnets tied with ribbons added interest. The dark feminine energy was further marked by the makeup looks created by Sharryn Hinchliffe. Featuring burgundy lips and smokey eyes, Hinchliffe described the Dreaming Eli woman as “a little bit Victoriana, coquette, she’s innocent but also not. […] Sexy, seductive, ethereal and dead gorgeous.” If Blair Waldorf’s red tights reigned supreme last season, goth-inspired Jenny Humphrey makeup seems to be on the agenda for fall 2024. Clean girl aesthetic is dead. 

“I’ve spent my whole life trying to prove that pink can be powerful, that feminine can be feminist,” Trombatore once explained Dreaming Eli’s mission to take sartorial symbols of oppression like corsets and reimagine them for a modern wearer. Favouring craftsmanship and taking inspiration from her personal connection to dance, Trombatore also recognises the influence of her Sicilian heritage. However, this is not the technicolor Sicily of vibrant ceramics and frutta martorana, but a Sicily of the tar-black froth of unpredictable Etna. The Dreaming Eli woman is a wild soul, who must overcome the seemingly contradictory societal expectations of being submissive and passionate, delicate and strong, unafraid to experience the full spectrum of emotions. 

Follow Dreaming Eli on Instagram

Photography: Lucy Marie
Words: Florentyna Syperek