Driven mad by the sudden loss of her family, the maiden wanders the halls of the castle, bereft, carrying flowers and singing fragments of songs. She meets her own untimely end when she falls into the river and drowns, letting herself be carried away by the current rather than swim.
The tragic tale of Lady Ophelia, from Shakespeare's Hamlet, has captured the imaginations of millions since her first soliloquy. She has been especially beloved in the spookier cultural circles- from Morticia Addams' sister Ophelia Frump, to Emilie Autumn's Opheliac, to alternative model Ophelia Overdose.
I fell in love with the iconic Ophelia myself when I read Anne of Green Gables as a young girl. In the book, strange Anne, with her newly regrown auburn hair, is elected by her friends to play the part of equally dreamy and odd Lady Ophelia. Though Anne's venture ends in mishap, the idea of playing Ophelia floating down the river in her bower of wildflowers stuck with me. As a head-in-the-clouds, out of place little girl myself, pretending to be woebegone Lady Ophelia helped me get through my various daily struggles. As I grew up, I began reading Shakespeare and the part became even more dear to me. So much so that even one of my cats is named for her! (though I must say that my lumpy, clingy cat lacks a certain theatrical grace). Even my favorite author, Anne Rice, had the witch Mona Mayfair- a wild, red haired young woman obsessed with Ophelia.
As Ophelia has developed as a literary and cultural icon, her visual representation has also developed certain cliches. There is a certain whimsical, otherworldly appearance that has become a part of her identity.
Here are a few ways to channel the ill-fated Danish princess into your look.
1. Long, wavy hair. This is perhaps her most consistent feature- long, wild, unbound hair. Try crimping it or letting it dry in braids. Red or strawberry blonde are the most common colors for her hair if you're in the market for wigs.
If the above is too plain for your tastes, try a simple medieval-inspired braided hairstyle. Something half braided, half down would be lovely and romantic.
2. Flowers. Whether fake or real, weave them into your hair, make a flowered headband, or pin them on in a corsage. Also look for flower inspired jewelry and prints.
3. Looser, more flowing dresses. Cast aside your structured bodices and OPs this time, and look for somethings softer and more draped (although, the effect of pairing a loose dress with a tight corset is quite nice). This might be a great opportunity to incorporate some Mori-Kei as well.
4. Wear white. Ophelia's innocence is often portrayed by her being shown in white. In my opinion, wearing white or cream has a certain ghost-like quality when paired with long hair.
5. Jewel tones, if white doesn't suit you. Rich greens, blues, and burgundies will compliment the look and reference the time period Hamlet is set in.
I think a concept to keep in mind whilst channeling our darling Lady Ophelia is "tragic beauty". Something beautiful that is ruined or tarnished in some way, so that it's beauty is even more apparent but at the same time terribly sad. The contrast of loveliness with darkness heightens the allure. Cracked porcelain dolls, wilting roses, old statues, crumbling castles...a beautiful maiden whose young life was snuffed out by madness and death.