McQueen, Evermore

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McQueen, Evermore

torn and tattered lace. Slashed green leather (bracken and moss), fragmented tartan (clan disunity).

Alexander McQueen, Dress (It’s Only a Game, spring/summer 2005). Lilac leather and horsehair. Photograph © Sølve Sundsbø / Art + Commerce

Designed from lilac leather and horsehair, It’s Only a Game reconciles female silhouette with Victorian shape and the utility of armor. In my eyes it conjures the vocabulary of the wild woman archetype, all armor and hair, but It’s Only a Game is tailored with Victorian porportion and modernist finishing.

"I want people to be afraid of the women I dress." — Alexander McQueen

Left: Alexander McQueen, Dress Sarabande (spring/summer 2007). Cream hand-painted leather. Photograph by Patricia. Right: Fertility figure currently on display at the Metropolitan Musem of Art, Gallery 404. Statuette of a female, ca. early 1st millennium B.C., northwestern Iran, Caspian region. Ceramic, 31.3 cm. Photograph © Metropolitan Museum of Art.

With Sarabande, the construction exagerates form in the porportions of female fertility figures, but with this dress the the abdomen is muscled—just one of the many ways in which McQueen exercised not just a play of contrasts in his work, but a manner of dressing women with a defiant assurance, instead of an inviting vulnerability.

Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen. Left: “Coiled” Corset (The Overlook, autumn/winter 1999–2000). Aluminum. Right: “Spine” Corset (Untitled, spring/summer 1998). Aluminum and black leather. Photographs © Sølve Sundsbø / Art + Commerce.

Despite his desire to "transform mentalities more than the body", McQueen was very demanding of silhouette. McQueen's corsetry was more about protection than adhering to societal forms of femininity. Spine Corset is decidedly armor, not a shaping device. Coiled Corset was described by McQueen as being sadomasochistic, yet comfortable to wear. Neither of these corsets shrink the existing body shape.

Alexander McQueen, Dress (The Horn of Plenty, autumn/winter 2009–10). Black duck feathers. Photograph © Sølve Sundsbø / Art + Commerce

The wide hips of fertility figures, Victorian era and eventually the 1950s, is revisited again with Dress (The Horn of Plenty), a striking piece designed entirely in shiny black duck feathers. Dress reads like an embodiment of the darker strengths of the McQueen aesthetic: Romanticism, poetry, Hitchcock and fetish wear. Edgar Allan Poe's "shadowy fancies" from The Fall of the House of Usher are prominent throughout McQueen's work. In Dress, Poe's The Raven emerges full of melancholy and stamina—much like McQueen's creative legacy.

Savage Beauty is on view at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art until August 7, 2011.


Comments [1]

Grace Moon's picture

I'm dying to see this show,

I'm dying to see this show, will have to hit it mid week at some point.

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