My summer visit to New York City could not have been complete without stopping by the second floor of The Metropolitan Museum of Art – aka “The Met” – to tour Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. All organized by Curator Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda, both of The Costume Institute, along with assistance from his former fashion show production designers. Close to 200 ensembles and accessories from the Alexander McQueen Archive in London, Givenchy Archive in Paris as well as private collections, were grouped according to McQueen’s Romantic fixations.
Lines for the exhibit can reach up to an hour – more than worth the wait, although I was lucky enough to only stand by about half of that. Once inside, the packed crowd moved along surprisingly smoothly from room to room. The tour began by setting the tone with two mannequins who, like the theme of many of his collections, were polar opposites. On the left, a dress of red and black ostrich feathers adorned with red painted glass medical slides. On the right, a striped and varnished razor-clam shell dress, both from the VOSS, spring/summer 2001 collection.
Onto “The Romantic Mind,” showing McQueen’s signature “bumster” design – pants so low that they revealed, yes, the mannequin’s bum! Accessories such as shoes in the shape of a mutated spine, butterflies and headpieces all inspired by Edgar Allan Poe were displayed next in the “Cabinet of Curiosities.” The video in this room was such a unique element capturing Alexander McQueen’s ability to turn a runway into an artful performance. One of the most intriguing was a white dress worn by Shalom Harlow in the spring 1999 show, along with a video of the dress being spray painted black and yellow on the runway.
Romantic Gothic & The Cabinet of Curiosities
The atmosphere of each room kept perfectly in tune with the all of the pieces and music. In a proud, regal tribute to his Scottish roots, were McQueen’s first tartan designs.
The exhibit went on to show “Romantic Primitivism,” the focus of McQueen’s first post-grad runway collection, complete with horsehair and antelope horns. While beautiful: definitely not for the faint of heart. Difficult to choose, but my favorite gallery may have been the “Romantic Exoticism” – think Asian-inspired silhouettes, silk and previously fresh flowers.
The journey ended with “Romantic Naturalism,” by far the most wearable pieces for us everyday fashionistas and Alexander McQueen’s last fully materialized collection before his February 2010 death. Included were dresses and leggings in vibrant, earthy colors accompanied by outrageously high heels – the same heels worn and made famous by Lady Gaga.
- Romantic Naturalism
Overall, The Met was a great way to start my weekend in the city with the most unique designer collection I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. Words really cannot do the exhibition justice, it is a must see for anyone visiting the city before August 7th! If you can’t make it to New York, the Met store’s website has plenty of fashionable souvenirs.