Despite her questionable beginnings as a dancer in the circus and lowly daughter of a bear trainer who worked at the Hippodrome (an enormous entertainment stadium) in Constantinople, Theodora eventually tranformed herself into the most powerful woman in Byzantium. She captured the eye and then the heart of the future Emperor Justinian, who had the law changed in order to be able marry her - previously, patricians and entertainers had been forbidden to wed. She apparently ruled right by his side; some historians even credit her as the true power of the throne, as her husband was known to be somewhat spineless, easily influenced by others, and an inept politician. In addition to raising the role & rights of women, she also encouraged Constantinople's architectural renaissance, including the building of hospices, churches, and refuges for the poor - turning it into one of history's most fabled cities. She was thought to have been born around the year 500 in Crete, Cyprus, or possibly Syria, and died in 548 of breast cancer.
"Theodora was a circus artist who became empress, like Chanel, who was a little singer and became a fashion empress," explains Karl Lagerfeld about his luxurious, Byzantine-inflected Fall 2011 collection for Chanel.
Indeed, he sent out just what today's fashion empresses (and wannabe royalty...like yours truly) wanna wear, including a stunning blue/green silk shift encrusted with a wide band of glittery goodness across the empire area, a really fabulous horizontal "stripe" sweater dress with chocolate brown "tubing" on the skirt, a swathe of fabric encrusted in stones and worn like a wrap with a slouchy-chic peacock blue pant, and the finale: a floor length gold-embroidered robe fit for a ruler that, despite its elaborate adornment, seemed to be begging to be paired with a girl's fave pair of artfully "worn" dark denim skinnies, badass booties, and edgy asymmetric tee.
- Lesley Scott
(runway images via style.com)