Erin O’Connor wears a dress with “red and black ostrich feathers and glass medical slides painted red” at the finale of Alexander McQueen S/S 2001 ‘Voss’

“Alexander McQueen realizes man’s original fears-not only in the sphere of sexuality-using an aesthetic vestimentary language. His themes are traumata such as isolation and loneliness, as well as the dialectics of pleasure and pain, eroticism and death, man and machine, love and brutality, and victim and aggressor. Thus, he succeeds in holding up a mirror to reality and in achieving distance and transcendence. ‘There’s beauty in anger and anger for me is passion’ are the words with which Alexander McQueen expresses his basic attitude, which he visualised successfully in a single dress: one with a top made of glass microscope slides and a skirt of ostrich feathers in his collection Voss (Spring/Summer 2001). The top consists of two thousand microscope slides sewn by hand onto gauze, each painted differently in blood red to suggest biological examination under a microscope. The thin segments of glass could break at any time, their sharp edges cutting into flesh and so revealing the blood and arteries inside. While the soft feathers of the voluminous skirt attract us with their tactile erotic charm, this affinity is destabilised by the glass top. The visual and the tactile, distance and proximity, play a part in shaping our aesthetic perception. When McQueen uses microscope slides, he aims to express scientific research’s power over the body, its control over life and death. In a way similar to the work of the artist Bellmer, this is a matter of anatomy of the physically subconscious as opposed to the psychologically subconscious in Sigmund Freud’s theory. However, the dress was given a different connotation when it was worn-just once-by the musician Björk onstage at a concert. Her dancing movements caused the glass slides to rattle against each other, and this gentle jingling was integrated as a component of Björk’s music. The ‘blood plasma slides’ mutated into percussion instruments.” 

Text taken from ‘When Clothes Become Fashion: Design and Innovation Systems’ by Ingrid Loschek

First two images are the courtesy of Met Museum

Kristen KeysComment