On Kylie’s Lion Dress and History in Fashion

If you haven’t been on the Internet in the past few days, you might have missed the newest Doja Cat album that many are relating to a red Sour Patch Kid…

Courtesy Schiaparelli Fashion Show

If this is the first time seeing the picture, I’m not sure if I should be apologizing or saying you’re welcome.

The look was worn on Jan. 23 to the Schiaparelli’s Paris Fashion Week Show and wasn’t the only outfit with major media pull. Sitting right next to Doja Cat in the front row of the same fashion show, Kylie Jenner wore a black bodycon dress with a giant lion’s head pinned on. 

Courtesy Schiaparelli Fashion Show

There was even more uproar, since one of the models was also wearing a black dress with a lion’s head pinned on.

Courtesy Schiaparelli Fashion Show

For obvious reasons, both outfits went viral almost instantaneously. Whether it was making memes, pulling jokes, or buying a box of red jewels from Michaels to try the look for themselves, the outfits were top of the fashion world talk for more than a week after.

Despite loving the jokes and seeing how funny the outfits are out of context, I must admit that there is a method to their madness.

Fashion shows typically have themes, and Schiaparelli’s theme was ‘inferno’. In other words, ‘hell’. Most people have probably heard the word ‘inferno’ due to the classic poem, Dante’s Inferno.

In Dante’s Inferno, Dante finds himself lost in a dark forest. There is only one spot, high on a mountain, where he can see the sun shining. Although when he tries to climb the mountain, there are three beasts in his path: a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf. He returns to the forest to find the ghost of Virgil, who tells Dante he can get him out of the forest, but they must go through hell and purgatory before arriving in heaven.

The main idea of writing Dante’s Inferno was to warn people against sins and encourage them to move towards God and Christianity. Therefore the three beats were more symbolic than just being dangerous animals. Each of the three beasts represented a different type of sin. The leopard is lust, the lion is pride, and the she-wolf is greed. In relation to the plot of the story, Kylie’s lion dress makes complete sense.

The lion is also supposed to be a point of intimidation and represent the king. It’s impossible to say whether Kylie and her stylists chose the lion head because of what it symbolizes or simply for the way it looks. The lion is the most powerful animal in the animal kingdom, so it would seem only natural to go with the most powerful animal.

What was pushed behind the scenes due to Kylie Jenner’s star power is that there wasn’t just a lion head walking down the red carpet, all three beasts were represented. 

Courtesy Schiaparelli Fashion Show
Courtesy Schiaparelli Fashion Show

There is also a special coincidence in Virgil being the name of the ghost of the Roman poet that led Dante out of hell. He shared the name with Virgil Abloh, who was an incredibly famous and successful fashion designer that Kylie Jenner worked closely with for the majority of her life. Virgil passed away on Nov. 28, 2021. For the 2022 Met Gala, she wore Off White in remembrance of Virgil.

As for Doja Cat’s outfit, there’s no specific scene in the poem in which someone bedazzled in red comes out of the dark woods. However, as you’re looking at Doja Cat’s outfit with the term ‘hell’ in mind, it’s not hard to make the connection between the two. Whatever the specific reason Doja Cat and her team had for the look, there’s no arguing that it represented ‘inferno’ well.

Other than being the color most often related to hell the author of Dante’s Inferno, Dante Alighieri, was always depicted wearing red. This is because in the 13th century, red was a color that denoted experience and wealth. Alighieri was from Florence and although he was born into an impoverished family, it was also a Noble family. Therefore when he was painted, he was always wearing red to show his noblility.

It’s interesting that Schiaparelli would choose a theme that so heavily pushes a strict and doctrinal view of Christian values. The poem focuses on actions and reactions and the balance between sins and being punished. At one point in the poem, it says that homosexuality is a sin, and the punishment for that sin is enduring an eternity of walking on hot sand. However the book is qualified as a classic and an important piece of literature in history. It seems as though fashion is increasingly pulling from history for inspiration, which can be seen in the Met Gala theme last year being “Gilded Glamour” to pay homage to the Gilded Age. 

There are always people who dress extremely off-theme at the Met Gala, but this year it seemed different. There were still people who deliberately disregarded the theme to wear what they wanted, but there were almost people who got the time period completely wrong. When they were supposed to be dressing for the Gilded Age, they dressed for the Golden Age instead.

Kim Kardashian most famously wore the Marilyn Monroe dress straight out of Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. She lost weight, had her mom call the museum for her, and had a dressing room instilled at the Met, all to wear a dress of an actress who was extremely famous in the Golden Age, not the Gilded Age. Although the names may sound similar, the two periods were almost a century apart. The Gilded Age is the 1870s to 1890s while Marilyn Monroe was alive 1926 to 1962 with the Golden Age beginning in the late 1940s. I don’t believe Anna Wintour would ever (and she certainly shouldn’t) choose “Golden Age” as a theme for the Met Gala, as many would interpret it as The Great Gatsby, a book that symbolically pokes fun at the rich and the careless parties they hold and money they throw away.

When you tie in the aspect of history and classical literature to high-end fashion, it poses a lot of questions. Did Kim Kardashian know she was dressing in the wrong time period? Does Kylie Jenner know that her dress represents one of the seven deadly sins? Does Doja Cat know her outfit represented hell in a highly regarded Christian book?

History will continue to reign as an integral muse when it comes to fashion. Stylists and designers always look backwards to reimagine pieces and trends for the 21st century. Themes like “Gilded Glamour” and “inferno” will continuously show up in the fashion world in the coming years and it’s undoubtedly intriguing to see how they integrate the old and the new together seamlessly.

However, it must be argued that knowing the true history behind these pieces is just as important as looking good while wearing them. When celebrities or models wear an outfit, they are ultimately a walking advertisement for the brand, stylist, and whatever the outfit is looking to communicate. If these people wearing an article of clothing don’t know the history behind it, then they cannot fully be doing their job.

Yours truly,


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