"The cinema is cruel like a miracle." -Frank O'Hara

Alexander McQueen [1969-2010] and Cinema

“If we go beyond a few rudimentary signs (eccentricity, classicism, dandyism, sport, ceremony) can clothing signify without recourse to the speech that describes it, comments upon it, and provides it with signifiers and signifieds abundant enough to constitute a system of meaning?” -Roland Barthes, The Fashion System

Some fashion designers create clothing and some create universes. Alexander McQueen did the latter, and he often drew directly from cinema for inspiration. Citing influences such as Hitchcock and Kubrick, his fashion shows were elaborately produced spectacles that often evoked scenes from classic movies. Fantasy, horror, noir, Merchant-Ivory costume drama — all were fodder for his innate brand of showmanship. It was also impossible to reduce a McQueen collection to the usual trendspotty rhetoric, i.e. “brown is the new black” or “pencil skirts are back,” or “another season of dominatrix heels.” His clothing wasn’t about innovations in materials, new silhouettes, or outright sex appeal, although those factors couldn’t help but figure in. McQueen was for the girl who wakes up feeling equal parts Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Bancroft, who wears David Bowie eyepaint with an Audrey Hepburn shift dress to a party*, who cultivates the queasily erotic aura of a Manson girl, who chips her own nail polish and rips her own fishnets because she doesn’t want to look too “done” but puts her hair up into a chignon just because. A lot of designers mine movies for their source material, but few were as inventive and eclectic as McQueen.

*this is my current sartorial fantasy

McQueen Fall 2005. Inspired by Hitchcock brunettes-turned-blonde. (Now I want canary yellow shoes.)

McQueen Spring 2007. Inspired by Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon.

McQueen Spring / Summer 2004. A re-enactment of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? This is truly breathtaking.

Category: fashion

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