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Alexander McQueen SS18 collection: ahead of the curves

Alexander McQueen SS18 collection: ahead of the curves

October 10
03:06 2017

What’s the least likely thing you’ll see in a month of womenswear collections? A model with big boobs.

Despite all the directives and pledges and commitments being made to make shows more inclusive and diverse, the sight of a model with a real, shuddering, womanly bosom — like Sophia Loren or Anita Ekberg, or dare I say, Mrs François-Henri Pinault, Salma Hayek — is a rare thing indeed. These particular bosoms belonged to models Betsy Teske and Eline Lykke. They both walked the Alexander McQueen SS18 collection, resplendent in 1950s-style ball gowns in plissé organza all printed with gingham and flowers.

The beauty of these girls wasn’t that they were “plus-size”, although surely in some parallel universe they might conceivably be described as such. They were simply very well-endowed. And praise be for Betsy and Eline. Designers are usually so negligent in their consideration of the chest, one suspects they think of it as an anatomical abnormality. Most models, regardless of colour and creed, typically look like prepubescent children. By casting models with a proper, womanly figure, and then dressing them in clothes designed to showcase their body shapes rather than squirrel them away, designer Sarah Burton made a short feminist statement on Monday night, without using a slogan, or saying a word.

The casting was all part of a broader theme of liberation. After seasons of showing a long, lean silhouette, Burton had wanted “to explode it”. The design team had been to Great Dixter, a Tudor house with a famous 20th century Arts and Crafts garden, and the seed bank at Kew to research, and while the grounds had suggested the show’s themes — deconstructed gabardine trenches, eiderdown quilting, flowers, linens, and the idea of “an English country garden being drenched in the rain” — Burton had drawn also on Great Dixter’s planting, and the idea of something both cultivated and chaotic.

To find her chaos, Burton had taken the shears to traditional English clothes and deconstructed them. The trench was taken apart and remade with damask insets and floral brocade; the classic red hunting coat had been turned so its innards faced out and then re-cut and re-tailored; other looks had been made in muddy-coloured waxed leather; a skirt was embroidered with flowers on a paper tapestry fabric (an homage to the raw tapestry clothes that featured in McQueen’s “No.13 Show”, in 1999).

The only sadness here was the limp, post-downpour hair, which looked oily and unflattering. I longed to see the beauty looks applied with the same chaotic logic as had been offered the clothes, and the hair to be wild and woolly.

But there were joys to be found in the dresses. The brand’s chief executive Emmanuel Gintzburger is quick to remind me that brand McQueen is about much more than the dresses (“don’t forget the tailoring, the shoes, the bags . . .”) but these gowns were distractingly lovely. Long feathery robes in a degrade tweed; vivid glass organza ball gowns, almost vinyl in texture, designed to “turn the models into flowers”; a dress, in blood red, like roses in bloom.

The show ended with a series of ball gowns, or “ghost dresses” as Burton described them. Made of ball gowns that once would have suited a Cecil Beaton sitting, Burton had slashed them up and re-stitched them in a seductive composite of flapping corsetry and chiffon folds. She had then strewn them with feather-embroidered flowers. They were shudderingly lovely.


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