I am not a fashionista, by any stretch of the imagination: I have been known to wear pajama pants on grocery store runs, and also I own a Snuggie. In my weak defense, my lack of creativity with my daily ensembles mostly stems from the fact that I rarely wear an outfit for longer than my 15-minute bike ride to and from the theatre (and also, the cost of my dream wardrobe far exceeds my anemic funds). But despite my "black-goes-with-everything" amount of effort that I put into my personal everyday look, I do have a typically girlish love and appreciation for fashion, and one of my favorite designers is the late, great Alexander McQueen, whose garments never lack for imagination or drama.
The current creative director of Alexander McQueen, one Sarah Burton, spoke with Vogue recently about several of McQueen's dresses, which are set to be part of the Costume Institute's upcoming exhibition "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty," opening May 4 at the Met in New York City. Turns out that the stories behind McQueen's designs are as inspired and as dramatic as they look.
The dress below is from the Fall 2006 collection, called "Widows of Culloden." Burton tells Vogue: "The collection was about the 1745 massacre of the Scottish Jacobites by the English, which Lee felt so passionately about because of his Scottish family heritage, which his mother had researched. The women were the widows of the slaughtered army. This dress was actually based on my wedding dress--I got married two years earlier. We had to figure out how to make lace work in the round with those ruffles because Lee hated gathering. So we cut out all of the flowers from the lace and reappliquéd it on tulle to make our own fabric. This is the collection most people remember as the one with Kate Moss in a hologram. Oh, my God, it was so beautiful. He loved that show."
And of this dress, from the "Voss" Spring 2001 collection, Burton recalls: "So much of this show was about the collective madness of the world. It was presented in a two-way mirrored glass box in London, and the girls had bandaged heads, acting like inmates of a mental asylum. Lee wanted the top of this dress to be made from surgical slides used for hospital specimens, which we found in a medical-supply shop on Wigmore Street. Then we hand-painted them red, drilled holes in each one, and sewed them on so they looked like paillettes. We hand-painted white ostrich feathers and dip-dyed each one to layer in the skirt."
Alexander McQueen's designs are beautiful not only for their masterful execution and obvious uniqueness, but because his pieces evoke strong reactions and emotions, and convey a sense of importance and story (if not exactly the tale which inspired the designer). His clothes are art and theatre unto themselves, and for this somewhat self-apathetic fashion lover, worthy of worship, indeed.
We taste it.
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