Monday, May 9, 2011

McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibition

Well, dear readers I have at long last made the trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view the McQueen retrospective Savage Beauty now up through July 31st. I must say, crowd control aside, it was captivating to say the very least. The rooms were set-up by themes and contrasted starkly with one another between sheer opulence and stark materials.
For months we have been bombarded with the show stoppers....the McQueen avant garde creations that really pushed the envelope. I too was guilty of that in my previous posts. But it was in some of the restrained galleries that one could have a quiet moment to take in a work and see the nuanced genius of the man. You could sense that while McQueen had a penchant for fantasy and the macabre he was at the very core a craftsman (trained as a tailor) and was well versed in the history of art. Don't get me wrong, I love his darker moods, flirting with fetish and the Gothic...who doesn't like a good Poe or Fonthill Abbey reference...but I digress.
In the first gallery, dedicated to McQueen's tailoring roots entitled The Romantic Mind, you are confronted by these re-invisioned Napoleonic jackets. The text provided made it crystal clear that it was his deep knowledge of construction that allowed him to later deconstruct and reinterpret forms and silhouettes. But it was in the Romantic Nationalism gallery that I was stopped dead in my tracks by this gown...
This Empire infused confection was a highlight of the Fall/Winter 2008 collection entitled The Girl Who Lived In The Tree. While McQueen is quoted as saying "I don't really get inspired [by specific women]" but more by "Iconic women" his references from this period in history are evident.
Madame Recamier by Francois Pascal Simon Gerard

Madame Grassini in the Role of Zaire by Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun

Portrait of Madame de Stael by Anne-Louise Girodet de Roucy-Triosson

The Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Details of the ensemble from the Fall/Winter 2008 collection

It was definitely one of those moments where something modern can transport you in a flash to an age of Empires, Orientalism, conquest and romance. I could do fifty related posts on the exhibition as it is a veritable feast. While the exhibition catalogue is good it does not contain all the works in the show and cannot capture the lushness of the installation. We are sad to see McQueen go but he has left his mark with an astonishing fashion legacy.


  1. Hello:
    You are so right when you say that McQueen has left us with a fashion legacy, and one which, in our view, will endure.

    But perhaps the most important point is the one which you make so clearly, that McQueen was trained as a tailor and this, we feel, underlies and gives substance and stature to all of his work.

    We should love to see this exhibition, which is clearly hugely popular, but, alas, the Atlantic Ocean separates us from it! This post is the next best thing!

  2. Wow that was really gorgeous. I'm loving those displays and the wonderful eye-candy details of each dress. Its really a sad day for fashionista to see them go. buy aion accounts

  3. yes, that one was the most evocative of all!

  4. Great post. Your analysis of the tailoring is spot on.

    I recently saw this exhibit, too, and while McQueen's edgy designs and eclectic choice of materials (shells, balsa wood, feathers!) certainly grabbed my attention, seeing the clothes in person made me realize what masterful tailoring stands behinds these creations.

    When I got my first glimpse of Kate Middleton's wedding gown, I was initially disappointed because the gown seemed relatively tame for a dress from the house of McQueen. But after considering it more closely, I realized that the tailoring Burton brought to the construction of that dress was the McQueen touch I had been looking for.

  5. Great post! I just visited this exhibit, too, and while the edginess of McQueen's designs and materials (balsa wood, mussel shells) certainly grabbed my attention at first, I found myself marveling over how he constructed these garments. It IS all about the tailoring.

    That tailoring was, to me at least, the hallmark of Sarah Burton's design of Kate Middleton's wedding dress. The conception of that dress was sedate by McQueen standards, but the engineering of it, the subtlety of the corset and bustle, was the real McQueen touch.