And not because Alexander McQueen blasted forth a stunning new fashion proclamation.
Rather, this was the designer in full couturier mode, offering mesmerizing renditions of his favorite themes in a manner that, though still theatrical, was by his standards sedate. In fact, while once he would have worked the motifs fiercely, here he did so with poetic cadence.
“The more I mature, the less confrontational I become,” he said before the show. “I’ve softened a bit in my old age.” (He’s 37.)
McQueen called his collection “Sarabande,” and thus enlisted the St. Martin in the Fields orchestra, whose female members took the circular stage at the Cirque d’Hiver in gowns of a cloudy shade of gray-lavender. They sat beneath an enormous chandelier, all contributing to the ambience of fragility and decaying elegance.
Then came the clothes, retro in the “Masterpiece Theatre” sense, with references from Goya to “Barry Lyndon,” Bresson to Gigli (McQueen’s long-ago employer).
McQueen’s two major motifs were Edwardian tailoring and major, curvaceous gowns, and in both cases he offered exquisite exaggeration and savvy modernity. Thus, a suit with appliquéd jacket and floor-sweeping skirt could costume a Henry James saga, and a glorious swirl of pink lace took masculine-feminine dressing to a new level of chic.
Similarly, hip padding expanded the hourglass élan of some evening looks while others conformed to the current skinny beauty ideal.
Either way, McQueen lavished on the clothes the incredible artistry he continues to refine. Intricate details of cut and discreet decoration defined the day looks.
For evening, layers of gauze and solid silk trapped silken flower petals; hand-painted birds perched about a molded corset dress; crystal embroidery articulated the curves of a pouf-hemmed gown; a color-removal process created a pale avian pictorial on a tiered black gown. (And, by the way, not a hideous shoe-as-sculpture in sight.)
Everything was either perfect for — or at least could be amended to suit — the dream wedding or other grand event. Save for one stunner, that is: a gown crafted entirely from fresh flowers that left a trail of blossoms in the model’s wake.
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