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Fashion Inspired by Art: Notre Dame Cathedral’s South Rose Window


For this week’s edition of Fashion Inspired by Art, we’ll be discussing Notre Dame Cathedral’s South Rose Window. This beautiful piece is a great inspiration for Easter outfits, or just for adding some springtime color into your ensembles. I hope you all enjoy!

Our Lady of Paris: About Notre Dame Cathedral’s South Rose Window

Notre dame cathedral south rose window
Notre Dame Cathedral’s South Rose Window (1260) via Wikimedia Commons | Click to enlarge.

Rose windows originated as part of Gothic architecture, specifically in Northern French cathedrals such as Notre Dame. They are comprised of stained glass held together by tracery (supporting iron/stone elements) in a circular pattern. The original design for rose windows was derived from the Roman oculus (large ceiling opening), like that of the Pantheon.

Notre Dame (which is French for “Our Lady of Paris”) is one of the most well-known examples of Gothic architecture. The design for its South Rose Window was first created by Jean de Chelles and was completed by Pierre de Montreuill after de Chelles’ death. It has undergone severe restorations and alterations over the course of its existence, and some pieces (such as the original central medallion) have been lost entirely. Although the tracery appears black on the inside of the cathedral due to lack of direct light, it is actually stone-colored, like the rest of the building’s architecture.

The rose window itself depicts Biblical scenes and the symbolism of the number four in Christianity. Its beautiful design, size, and color place it solidly among the most awe-inspiring features of the cathedral’s interior.

Notre dame de paris south rose window
Exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral’s South Rose Window (1620) via Wikimedia Commons

Outfits Inspired by the South Rose

Stained Glass Sweetheart

Outfit inspired by Notre Dame Cathedrals' South Rose Window: Fashion inspired by the colorful stained glass
Bracelets, Cardigan, Dress, Ring, Nail Polish, Earrings, Wedges

This outfit is based on the colorful accents of the stained glass in the South Rose window.

This outfit picks out the rich hues of the South Rose with its use of a jewel-tone palette. A dress with a circular floral print looks great with rounded accessories, like these round toe wedges, beaded bracelets, and black stud earrings. Add simple pieces to pull colors from the highly-patterned dress – a plain cardigan and shiny purple nail polish should do the trick. Finish the look by using gold accessories to add cohesion and complete the sense of glam in this fun, feminine outfit.

Tracery Temptress

Outfit inspired by Notre Dame Cathedral's South Rose Window: Cutouts
Bralette, Bracelet, Shirt, Heels, Pants, Earrings, Beret | Hair and makeup photo via ELLE

When viewing the rose window, it is important to realize that the beautiful stained glass exists within the negative space created by the intricate tracery.

This outfit emphasizes the geometric patterns of the South Rose with cut-outs and sleek, black pieces. The skinny pants and the top recreate the contrast between the seemingly-black interior of the cathedral and the bright glass of the window, while the criss-cross pattern of the tracery is mirrored in the strappy heels. The beaded bralette peeks through the cream crochet top, referencing the colorful window while injecting a sense of flirty fun into this look.

Now it’s time to accessorize! Make a literal nod to the cathedral with rose window earrings and, if you’re religious, a wooden saints bracelet. Top it all off with a bright red lip to make those bright colors really pop!

Symbolism Siren

Outfit inspired by Notre Dame's South Rose Window featuring unique accessories
Dress, Earrings, Rings, Necklace, Flats, Ring, Wallet | Hair and makeup photo via ELLE

Hone in on the symbolism of the South Rose by focusing on unique accessories. The spear earrings reference the lancet (spear-shaped) windows underneath the South Rose, while the 4 ring alludes to the Biblical idea of four.

This dress is a perfect embodiment of the South Rose, with the bright floral pattern standing out against the deep black of the dress.  You can easily imagine light filtering in, especially when you pair it with shiny metallic accessories. Mix the gold of the earrings with the rose gold necklace, and the silver ring, all of which are tied together in the stackable rings. Free up the look with a loose, boho-chic hairstyle and whimsical wallet that complements the dress without overpowering it.

What do you think?

Have you seen or studied Gothic artwork or architecture before? Do you enjoy the look of rose windows? What do you think about the inspired outfits? Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear your opinions!

Posted on on March 6, 2013 / Filed Under: Inspiration / Tags: , , , , , , ,

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19 Responses to “Fashion Inspired by Art: Notre Dame Cathedral’s South Rose Window”

  1. 1
    March 6th, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    OMG SECOND OUTFIT!!!! I die. It’s actually perfect.
    Loving this series!

  2. 2
    March 6th, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Love these outfits, especially the third one! If only the dress was available :(

  3. 3
    March 6th, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    I love the dress in the last outfit! The first outfit is pretty, too, though as a Christian I don’t like to see the cross worn as just an accessory.

  4. 4
    March 6th, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    @Merritt I love that dress, too! When I put this post together (just days ago!) the dress was completely stocked in all sizes — must be a fashion favorite! I’ll try to browse around tomorrow and see if I can find a similar style :)

  5. 5
    March 6th, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Very, very cool….

    I feel like I just had some art history knowledge brought down hard on me. Like tracery?! Now I know a new word.

  6. 6
    March 6th, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    @Marian I think that’s an excellent point. Although crosses have become very stylish in the past year or so (causing a surge in cross accessories), I think the fact that they have a deeper, more spiritual meaning just makes them that much more special for those who wear them. I have a gold bracelet that my grandmother gave me for my birthday, and although it does not look like anything particularly special or fancy, the meaning and story behind it are what truly make it dear to me. Crosses have been used in designs and architecture for thousands of years, and I love to see that classics are always in style :)

    @Katy Always glad to share the art history love! The world needs to know more about its beautiful art!

  7. 7
    March 6th, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    One of the things I really like about College Fashion are the posts like this. It’s pulling inspiration from unusual sources and not only using the foundations of color, shape, and silhouette, but also symbolism and cool little subject-specific elements like tracery. It’s not just “here’s a pretty outfit” but “here’s a pretty outfit with a head on its shoulders”

  8. 8
    March 6th, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    @Merritt I went ahead and checked out some alternatives from the same store since I’m waiting on my clothes to dry, ha! None of these are quite as perfectly suited for the South Rose Window the original 3rd dress is, but they are roughly in the same ballpark!


    @Rachel Thank you so much for the praise! The little details are what really makes an outfit special :) Glad you’re enjoying my articles, I truly look forward to writing and posting them!

  9. 9
    March 7th, 2013 at 1:48 am

    I did not know what to expect with this piece of artwork, I thought maybe you would incorporate small doses of color into an ensemble. However, each outfit demonstrates effective color-blocking and hits almost every spring fashion trend, great post! I loved it!

  10. 10
    March 7th, 2013 at 2:10 am

    Love, love, loved it!! Both the outfits and inspiration. This series is one of my favourites here at College Fashion.

  11. 11
    March 7th, 2013 at 8:24 am

    I love that you find fashion inspiration everywhere!! So creative!

  12. 12
    March 7th, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    third outfit is my favorite <3 definitely my style

  13. 13
    March 7th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Thanks so much for the alternatives, Chelsea!

  14. 14
    March 7th, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    My favorite French Gothic cathedral is DEFINITELY Saint Chapelle. Its walls are almost entirely stained glass. It’s a short distance away from Notre Dame and many people don’t even know about it!
    Also, the Milan Cathedral is just stunning. Those buttresses are super FLYING.

    Lovely post :) The tracery outfit is great!

  15. 15
    March 7th, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Okay, so I have to admit. I go to Notre Dame and my first thought was “we don’t have a cathedral on campus…” It took me a full scroll-through to figure out you were talking about the one in Paris.

  16. 16
    March 7th, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    I love love love these! <3 All of them! I wish I had the money to afford one of those dresses.

  17. 17
    March 8th, 2013 at 5:52 am

    ::third outfit::: >>>>>>

  18. 18
    March 8th, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    The River Island crochet top from the 2nd look? i got it for 10 bucks in India. ASOS is selling it for 40. Boy does that feel good hahahha

  19. 19
    January 5th, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    I’m looking for a black t-shirt with the south rose window of Notre Dam printed in the front center. Do you know where I can find it? Thank you.

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