The Dress That Sparked a Thousand Memes: The Tale of Bjork's Swan Gown

Image credit: Legion-Media

When Bjork walked the red carpet at the Oscars 20-plus years ago in a Marjan Pejoski dress shaped like a white swan hugging her neck, she caused quite a furor.

But there was little praise about this outfit: the public and fashion critics were unanimous in calling it the worst in the entire history of the ceremony. However, this is not surprising, since at that time experiments on the red carpet were still rare, and the Academy Awards Ceremony was in fact the territory that was ruled by sparkling dresses and high heels.

But you have to appreciate the Icelandic singer’s contribution to the fashion progress. We are sure that largely thanks to her now you can come to the biggest awards ceremony in sneakers (like director Chloé Zhao) or without styling and makeup at all (like Frances McDormand).

However, the fragile girl from Iceland has always had her own view on music and fashion, so she did not care much about the criticism. She liked the dress so much that later even posed in it for the cover of her album Vespertine.

She even put on a little performance during the ceremony — she carried six eggs in her skirt and "laid" them right on the red carpet (in her words, this way she raised the problem of fertility). Another source of inspiration for her was the American choreographer Busby Berkeley and his swan dance. The singer wanted to pay homage to him with her swan dress.

However, you can see a lot of other references and hidden meanings in this outfit.

First, as we know, swans are a symbol of fidelity, because they are one of the few animals that form monogamous pair bonds for life. Second thing that comes to mind is the ancient Greek myth of Leda in which she was famously seduced by Zeus when he took the form of a swan.

We cannot say for sure whether the designer of the dress, Marjan Pejoski, had that ancient myth in mind, but he obviously saw a photo from 1935 showing Marlene Dietrich posing in what was probably the very first swan dress in fashion history and this one was certainly inspired by the ancient myth.

But the swan song does not end here. In 1997 the dress was reproduced by Alexander McQueen in his couture collection for Givenchy. Though in his interpretation the swan was black (the designer added meaning to it, now it is also Odile's outfit from Swan Lake).

In 2014 a slightly more abstract version of the same dress appeared in Valentino couture collection.

By the way, at that time one of the creative directors of Valentino was Maria Grazia Chiuri, who is now head of Dior. The last statement on the subject at the moment belongs to Maria again. Judging by the fact that the Dior cruise show was held in Athens, the primary source of inspiration was the ancient story about Leda and Zeus. It looks like the concept has come full circle, but the idea of such a dress proved that it hasn't lost its relevance over all these years. At least look at the amount of discussions and posts in social media it produces.