Back in early June, I met up with my aunt and cousin in the city to see the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I snapped some photos of the 82nd street entrance on my way in. Photos from inside the exhibit courtesy of the MET's website.
Above: "Romantic Gothic and the Cabinet of Curiosities."
The exhibit is divided into several rooms showcasing McQueen's extraordinary contributions to fashion. It starts with his postgraduate collection at Central St. Martins in 1992, includes his work at Givenchy, and ends with his final collection for the namesake brand in 2010. The exhibit also displays hats and headpieces crafted by Phillip Treacy, and corsets and jewelry by Shaun Leane for McQueen's collections. There are monitors above the display streaming videos from his most famous runway shows, such as the hologram of Kate Moss which closed his Fall/Winter show in 2006. In addition to the monitors is an audio guide with voiceovers by Sarah Burton and several of McQueen's friends and colleagues.
Below: "Romantic Primitivism."
Walking right up to the gowns in person was a truly breathtaking experience.
Left: "Oyster" Dress, Irere, spring/summer 2003. Right: Sarabande, spring/summer 2007.
The Oyster dress is made from hundreds and hundreds of layers of silk organza. In the audio voiceover, Sarah Burton explains the how the ivory chiffon is frayed and shredded to give the disheveled look that McQueen envisioned. The dress on the right is embroidered with real fresh flowers. In the words of McQueen, "I used flowers because they die. My mood was darkly romantic at the time."
This was a stand out piece for me. It's embroidered with iridescent enamel paillettes from head to toe. I love the way the light reflects this piece. It gives a glowing effect that's really beautiful. I love how McQueen could take anything, like a jellyfish, politics, or a shipwreck, and turn it into fashion. He really pushed the boundaries with silhouettes and materials; like his "bumster" pant which revealed the end of a woman's spine, or his dress made from varnished razor-clam shells. In my opinion, he was a creative genius. His death was such a great loss to the fashion industry, but I think it's safe to say his legacy will live on forever.
I returned to the MET again the following week to participate in a teen program called Alexander McQueen: Celebrate and Create. The event consisted of a seminar on McQueen, followed by an arts and crafts session to make a piece of "wearable art" inspired by the designer. I wore my skull printed scarf with a striped tank top, vintage cut offs, and a black blazer.
Gap blazer, American Apparel tank, Vintage Levi cutoffs from LF stores, Aldo bag, scarf from LF stores
The first part of the event was a seminar led by guest speakers (drumroll, please) Tavi Gevinson of the blog Style Rookie, and Shannon Bell Price who works in the Costume Institute and helped curate the exhibit. The discussion touched on several topics, like McQueen's aesthetic, his influence on fashion and culture, and how the exhibit was put together.
At the end of the seminar, they opened the discussion up for questions. I asked Tavi if she has a favorite piece from the exhibit, and if so, why is it her favorite. Obviously it's hard to pick just one, but she chose the butterfly hat made by Phillip Treacy for Alexander McQueen. She said one of her journals has a picture of it on the front, so seeing it in person was really special. I was completely in awe of the hat when I saw it inside the exhibit. It looks like a swarm of real butterflies, but it's actually feathers that Treacy hand painted with a butterfly design.
So when it was time to make my own piece of "wearable art," I turned to the butterfly hat for inspiration. It ended up being more of a bird hat than a butterfly hat, but I think it has the same spirit as the McQueen. First, I used black colored paper to construct a miniature top hat. Then I stuffed lots of feathers in the front and put longer ones on the side to imitate the fluttery movement of butterflies. I also had the above dress from McQueen's spring/summer 2001 collection in mind. It was the first dress I saw upon entering the exhibit. Its feathers are more birdlike, which inspired me to add two little cardinal birds to the front of my hat. The bodice of the dress is made of glass microscope slides tinted red, so I put red gems on the top of my hat to get the same shine.