Less than a day from the close of a grueling, seemingly endless fashion season, it seemed fitting (if perversely so) to celebrate those bastions of hard work and distinctive, functional design — bees.

Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton was drawn to bees, she said before her show, because theirs is “a matriarchal society where the females rule.” And because the artful shape they’ve given to nature, the honeycomb, opened a wealth of possibilities for her as she returned to a “heritage silhouette” —  read: strict and form-fitting — in a collection with an undercurrent of erotic theatricality and a hint of Vargas pinups without the cute factor.

Burton transported the honeycomb shape into jacquards, nets and laces, some embroidered with bees, and worked a considerable portion of the collection in iridescent versions of honey, gold and black. She opened with wasp-waist jackets, their peplums constructed for exaggeration over resin bustiers; racy, reed-thin skirts or pants and boots made from a crystal-studded stretch of netting that ran up the leg. Structural exaggeration of the jackets allowed for dramatic focus on the hips. As the collection went on, Burton began to simultaneously undress and add, putting traditional underpinnings, cages and corsets on the outside as dresses. Eventually these went undercover in exquisite, though not always sane, eveningwear. A yellow dress with flowers trapped within its bubble of a skirt looked party-ready; conversely, a huge, crazy cage of a flower-strewn gown, also yellow, looked right for Scarlet to wear home — if home were not Tara but Grey Gardens.

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