This morning I got up super early and went to the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition at the Met. I am not a huge fashionista, but I love clothes as much as the next girl, and working at the V&A certainly gave me a much greater appreciation of couture fashion through their regular series of catwalk shows, ‘Fashion in Motion’. Before attending these shows, I’d never seen couture fashion worn up close before, and the beauty of the cut, construction and movement in these exquisitely designed – though not always practical – clothes, astounded me. Alexander McQueen has always been hailed as a visionary, and the opportunity to see his designs was something I could not miss out on.
In short, the exhibition is incredible. The exhibition design itself is stunning; the use of mirrors, stage-style design, film and sound all work together to create a slightly uncomfortable, tense atmosphere that works wonders with the often eerie, vicious beauty of the clothes on display. The clothes are arranged thematically by collection, and though I found a lot of his work uncomfortable – especially the sadomasochistic masks and accessories – it cannot be denied that the thinking behind them and the way they are constructed is nothing short of genius. McQueen got a lot of his inspiration from Victorian Gothic literature and imagery, citing the photography of Julia Margaret Cameron as one of his inspirations, alongside Edgar Allan Poe. I also found his collections ‘Highland Rape’ and ‘Widows of Culloden’ very interesting, as an exploration of the violence of Scottish history and its tense relations with England. His use of historical and traditional design and construction techniques with postmodern twists gives his clothes an otherworldly, fractured quality, like a reflection in a shattered mirror. They are truly stunning to look at, and I was in awe at the beauty of dresses constructed out of ripple after ripple of feathers, wreaths of dried flowers, and circles of exquisitely layered and draped organza.
The contrast between romance and savagery in McQueen’s designs is open to a lot of criticism, and I did initially feel disturbed that he chose to find inspiration in genres and historical periods that are known for their fetishisation and permissiveness of violence against women. One of the dresses had its crotch ripped out, and others were spattered in blood. Many of the models in the catwalk shows would have worn his creations with leather masks on their faces, and the use of leather, chains and masculine tailoring techniques was evident throughout each of his collections. However, McQueen’s celebration of the beauty of the female form and his choice to be deliberately controversial and discuss the ways in which women have been and continue to be constructed, constricted and abused through fashion is also admirable, and by the end of the exhibition I didn’t come away feeling that he was a misogynist. Instead, I felt that he wanted to use his designs to open a dialogue, to push buttons, to cause controversy, to ask us to consider what femininity is, and what we are choosing to express when we dress ourselves. I was moved and awed by what I saw, and I certainly had my preconceptions of fashion as a rather vacuous enterprise challenged. McQueen’s was a brilliant talent, and I’m sorry it came to an end so tragically.
If you are in New York, or its vicinity, I strongly encourage you to go. The amount of people there at 9.30 this morning was ridiculous, and no one had a bad word to say; it’s a fantastic, beautiful and thought provoking exploration of one of the 21st century’s most iconic designers, and I could have stayed there all day marvelling at the magnificent, imaginative displays.
In other news of my week in New York, I went to see Adele at the Beacon Theatre on Thursday night. It was absolutely fantastic; Adele is brilliant live, and her warm, bubbly personality made everyone in the room feel like they were her best friend. Her mum and best friend were in the audience, and Adele sung a song for each of them, which was lovely, and added to the intimate atmosphere. We all enjoyed a good sing and dance and I was totally in awe of how powerful and beautiful Adele’s voice is. If you haven’t discovered her yet, go and buy her albums! She is perfect at expressing the feelings of the young and brokenhearted! I also loved her supporting act, a sort of Southern folk duo called The Civil Wars. I went straight online to buy their album the next morning and I strongly encourage you to do the same!
On Tuesday, something else very exciting happened – my sister gave birth to her third beautiful boy, and I am over the moon! Baby Albert weighed in at 7lb 14oz, and is absolutely gorgeous. I am the luckiest Aunty in the world to have three such brilliant boys to love, and I cannot wait to see them all for bumper kisses and cuddles when I go back in a couple of months.
Finally, after brunch in the Lower East Side today, I saw this hilarious ‘Wills and Kate’ mural, and couldn’t resist taking a photo!!