Alexander McQueen retrospective at the Met

Dramatic black dress made of black duck feathers on mannequin

Photo via Metropolitan Museum of Art

I recently stumbled upon the Alexander McQueen retrospective, Savage Beauty, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I literally stumbled upon it, having visited the museum on a whim with a friend and being led into his exhibit by the throngs of people.

I was absolutely blown away.

I am not a follower of fashion particularly, and have always found high-fashion to be particularly inaccessible to my sensibilities. But McQueen’s work, the drama, emotion and in particular the politics of it captivated me. There was no question that each of his pieces had a political message–they were overtly so. I was fascinated by his use of the human form and the medium of clothing to push our sensibilities, our notions of beauty, of the exotic.

I realize I may be a bit late on this train, and many of you probably already understood how fashion can sometimes be used in this way. Andrew Bolton says:

I think one of McQueen’s greatest legacies was how he would challenge normative conventions of beauty and challenge your expectations of beauty—what we mean by beauty.

In my research for this post I even remembered that I have blogged about McQueen before. I have to admit I’m a bit embarrassed by that post now–in particular by my feminist knee-jerk response to those high heels. The absurdity of them, I see now, can also be interpreted as a way to highlight the absurdity of our own gender constructions as they play out in fashion. These kinds of messages become clear when you look at McQueen’s work in context–it becomes impossible to ignore the political nature of it.

McQueen took his own life last year.

The Met exhibit runs through August. It is definitely worth a visit.

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