Sunday, 20 January 2013

Spectacularly Ornate | Alexander McQeen Pre-Fall 2013

The Church of England has been tearing itself asunder recently over whether to allow women to become bishops (it’s no-go so far), but if it should come to pass in time for pre-fall deliveries, fashion-conscious female clerics ought to flock to Alexander McQueen. Only joking. Yet there’s a flicker of a subversive thrill at the sight of Sarah Burton putting women in clothes inspired by ecclesiastical dress, especially when it comes to something as spectacularly ornate as a lace-covered cape, which looks as if it could do service at high altar.

Sarah Burton, who’s been finishing off this collection in the last weeks before her twins are due to arrive, spoke of  researching “the low church, puritans, nuns, and popes” for the collection. She’d had the basement in the McQueen headquarters in London’s Clerkenwell laid out as a showroom, with tables groaning under piles of accessories (stained-glass window jewelry; brass-buckled pilgrim shoes, and boots, dozens of bags) and the racks packed with clothes whose elaborate detailing and stately shapes can at times rival the output of Paris couture houses.

Even though this collection is a mere preamble to fall, its sweep is immense. It starts, calmly enough, with the low-church “day” end: cassock-like black velvet coats with nipped waists and flared laser-cut hems and snowy surplice-inspired cotton shirts and shirtdresses, some with huge double-balloon sleeves. Some of the cotton pique collars are ingeniously studded all around with traditional brass shirt studs so what might almost be a priest’s dog collar also reads as a punk’s dog collar. A subliminal quip fully in the McQueen tradition of chic wickedness.

But by the evening end of the collection, the references leave any hint of the (literally) parochial far behind. Instead, there’s breathtaking grandeur and presence: an ivory “communion lace” dress caught up in panniers at the sides; an eyewateringly luxe white fur tabard sculpted from fox, astrakhan, and shaved mink; black dresses encrusted with baroque metallic gold necklines; two slim, caped dresses, one black, one white, in which organza frills frame portholes through which lace bras can be seen. Any of these could be easily envisioned walking down aisles this coming summer, scaling the steps of the Met, or causing a stir at Cannes. “Well, there’s a huge demand for evening wear in our stores,” says Burton.

It’s hard to imagine how she can follow up with a fall collection to top this not that she needs to. All the requirements of creativity and commerce (there’s a substantial wardrobe-filling collection of mannish tailoring and signature knit dresses, aside from this) have been safely put to bed, before she goes off to have her babies. While she’s away, fall’s McQueen show in March in Paris will be scaled back to two small press presentations. But then again, never underestimate Sarah Burton’s religiously organized work ethic. The fall collection, she promises, “will be something quite different.”

Selections by ANDREA JANKE Finest Accessories

Photo Credit/Source: © VOGUE
Photos: Courtesy of © Alexander McQueen

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