joy magnetism: "I want people to be afraid...

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

"I want people to be afraid...

Magnet #1217 - Dress No. 13, Spring/Summer 1999, Alexander McQueen

...of the women I dress."
- Alexander McQueen

I'm not a fashionista. At. All. If you know me at all, you know my wardrobe is about as far from avant garde as it could possibly get.

I don't read about it, I don't look at it, I barely even notice it.

But, that doesn't mean I can't appreciate it. Sort of.

Which (of course) is how I found myself visiting the Met's Alexander McQueen exhibit today with my friend (the fashionista, who has an excellent in-depth view of her own), after having breakfast at Alice's Tea Cup (where I learned that I really can drink tea if I use enough milk and honey) and a quick pitstop at Vosges (where they didn't have my Rooster, boo).

Ya'll know I tend to love all museum exhibits, but you guys. This one? Was fantastic. I'd even say it really wasn't just an exhibit.

Rather, "Savage Beauty" was a truly amazing experience - such an insightful tribute to Alexander McQueen, the man and the designer, and obviously curated by a team who loved and cared about both.

After a pretty quick 10-minute wait in line (go early, is all I have to say), we finally were admitted to the ultraovercrowded exhibit hall. Or rather, halls.

The exhibit itself spanned several rooms, with each section well thought out and beautifully designed. As you walk through every threshold from room to room, you're immediately struck by the breadth of McQueen's work, and you get to discover one treat after another.

As I peered around dozens (and dozens) of folks to read the narratives and accompanying placards, I could hear snippets of awed and oddly reverent conversations - full-on discussions people were having about the cut and flow of his designs, the fabrics, the runway shows, etc. There was something nice seeing so many people with a true appreciation for the work, even as I knew I was missing things here and there.

My favorite part of the exhibit was watching the video footage of the various runway shows associated with the different pieces and collections. They helped put the pieces in context - for example, the No. 13 dress on this magnet was on a model being spray-painted by two robotic arms.* The story, and the awesome dress only makes sense, when you see the video.

I can't even imagine having seen any of McQueen's runway shows live, but I bet they were all nothing short of amazing. The production budgets alone must have been insanely ridiculous, and it certainly helps explain why haute couture needs to be expensive.

My favorite room was Romantic Nationalism, not surprisingly, filled with - apparently one of the hallmarks of McQueen's work - the Tartans of the Widows of Culloden and Highland Rape collection. You have to see them for yourselves, the images do no justice.

Oh, I don't claim to understand half of the pieces I saw - next time I visit, I'm totally getting the audio guide. If I'm totally honest, for all the pretty dresses I saw, there were spiney corsets, S&M-y stuff and feathers that absolutely freaked me out.

But, as it turns out, fashion is exactly like art. Love or hate it, you don't have to get it to appreciate the work and creativity that went into it.

*The robotic arms spray-painting this dress totally reminded me of my most favorite Shirley MacLaine movie ever - What a Way to Go!

At about the 1-minute mark, you'll see why.

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