“Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty”

Posted on May 05, 2011

It is imperative that all T Lo minions take a moment to drink in the “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” Costume Institute Exhibition At The Metropolitan Museum Of Art. Our newfangled blog is warning us that all your fabulosity levels are dangerously low, which can lead to crankiness and bad skin.


“The spring 2011 Costume Institute exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, will be on view May 4 through July 31 (preceded on May 2 by The Costume Institute Gala Benefit). The exhibition will celebrate the late Mr. McQueen’s extraordinary contributions to fashion. From his Central Saint Martins postgraduate collection in 1992 to his final runway presentation, which took place after his death in February 2010, Mr. McQueen challenged and expanded our understanding of fashion beyond utility to a conceptual expression of culture, politics, and identity.”

“Alexander McQueen’s iconic designs constitute the work of an artist whose medium of expression was fashion,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “This landmark exhibition continues the Museum’s tradition of celebrating designers who changed the course of history and culture by creating new possibilities.”



More photos:

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Darlings, we’ve been chained to our desks all day, so we’re going to go out, grab the last bits of spring sunlight out there, and rub it vigorously on our faces, like an exfoliant. When you are capable of finding the words to discuss all this insane freaking beauty, discuss it amongst yourselves. Ciao!

[Photo Credit: getty, metmuseum.org]

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  • I am finding it hard not to cry. It’s just so beautiful and tragic.

  • SQ

    Pure beauty. Oh, Lee…

  • My scientist brain can not conceive of art like this. It’s just so…beyond. Other wordly. Clearly, I beauty like this causes me to be extremely inarticulate. >.<

  • My scientist brain can not conceive of art like this. It’s just so…beyond. Other wordly. Clearly, I beauty like this causes me to be extremely inarticulate. >.<

  • Darcie

    I’m going to see this myself in July, I’m so excited I can hardly stand it. Thank you TLO for introducing me to all the fabulousness that is the TLO realm of FuckingFantastica!

  • Darcie

    I’m going to see this myself in July, I’m so excited I can hardly stand it. Thank you TLO for introducing me to all the fabulousness that is the TLO realm of FuckingFantastica!

  • aimee_parrott

    So gorgeous.

  • samantha

    I’m loving this new posting system. So much easier than the old one, which I never really used. But other than that, I miss the old site.

  • Anonymous

    Indescribable. And if New York wasn’t about 755 miles away from me, I’d definitely be there admiring all of this in person.

  • Neil Young

    Beyond this world, beyond perfection and into another dimension…..

  • Every time I see his work, I think how very, very sad it is for the world that he’s no longer here to contribute his art.

  • alliecat

    It’s incredible… And yet. The headlessness and facelessness of the manikins really brings to the front a feminist question for me (which I’m sure many before have considered more intelligently than I): what does it say about a collection that the woman wearing it doesn’t matter? That she can be literally absent from consideration in terms of evaluating the work? I can appreciate that he has created gorgeous art – but the human being wearing it has been utterly effaced. It’s kind of the creepy end result of the whole high fashion industry moving so far away from actual women.

    I don’t know – maybe I just like real heads on the people wearing outfits.

    • I also had an instant visceral dislike for the heavily masked pieces, not so much because they de-emphasize the woman wearing the piece, but because they muzzle her. Few of them even look they take breathing into consideration, and many of them are reminiscent of fetish wear. However, like many editorial photo shoots, they could be taken as an objection to, and not a desire for, the practice of fetish-izing and objectifying women. It’s a valid point of discussion, and I don’t know if anyone ever got an answer from McQueen about his motivation. And maybe his motivation isn’t truly what’s important, instead it’s the observer’s reaction that’s important.

      • Wally

        It’s not about women. It’s not about people. When it’s about people, it becomes ordinary fashion, a thing of trends and time. Look at that last picture in the gallery, the black feather dress. That exact pose is perfect – no other will do to convey the same meaning. The Met understood this. It’s why they chose the masks and the poses of the mannequins. When Daphne Guinness of Lady Gaga wear a McQueen piece, it is about them wearing it, it is not about the piece in and of itself. That’s why the mannequins are perfect; they take the flawed human element away from the art.

        • Anonymous

          While I do find a couple of the masks disturbing, I have to go with Wally on this. I don’t even have much to add to what he said.

          That doesn’t mean that I’m dismissing alliecat’s and Jill’s points. I think how the fashion industry views women is an important one. We should never stop talking about it. But this exhibition is about McQueen’s work
          as art.

        • merry

          Yes, exactly. That black feather dress is a perfect example – the way it was posed and styled by The Met, and I do also appreciate that TLo chose it to be the final photo in their post, as well. This exhibit is about McQueen rather than the women who wore him….

          RIP Mr McQueen, and thank you TLo, for upping my fabulosity quotient….

    • Erikaiverson

      Generally at the Met’s Costume Institute shows there is a different designer who designs the faces/wigs/manniquin heads… so it’s still a good question, but it’s not a question for McQueen so much as it is for The Met.

    • I like the masked faces because I think it renders the work even more surreal and removed from a particular time, qualities quite appropriate to his clothes.

    • PorfirioDiaz

      Alexander McQueen was pretty ardently anti-feminist/anti-woman.


      • There’s mention of him portraying abused/bloodied models but it doesn’t seem like there’s much discussion of it in that article. (the woman they are talking about thinks all feminists should be lesbians? Oh, dear. I am of the school that does think the trappings of beauty can be empowering, I suppose.) Given that when I finally got to the bit about him it made me tilt my head and go a-Googling, I found this which might also be of interest: http://jezebel.com/5472257/is-he-for-or-against-women-alexander-mcqueen-and-the-female-form I don’t know that I have an opinion yet on whether I think his works are misogynistic as a whole. He’s done several collections that were breathy fantasies about women’s bodies that evoked royalty, light, and air, and then several that made a mockery of the female form, bloodied and distorted. I suppose I’ve always seen him as almost designing for aliens rather than people, and I enjoy how he’s pressed the boundaries of both form and function. (which is actually what I enjoy most about Lady Gaga, how she twists the idea of what is beautiful and what we expect women and their bodies to look like)

    • PeaceBang

      Allie, I was there for opening day and I feel the same way you do. The masked faces (almost all the mannekins were masked — I still don’t understand why) de-personalized the works to the extent that I felt alienated from them unless I made a huge effort to get beyond the hoods. Since so many of the hoods were leather, and therefore evocative of bondage and torture, it felt viscerally misogynist, no matter how many times the exhibit soundtrack interviews emphasized how much Lee “loved” women. By the way, the exhibit is on a main floor of the Met, not in the basement. The exhibit is HUGE — I do think it could have been lit better, though.

      • Anonymous

        PeaceBang, did it simply diminish your enjoyment of the exhibit — or ruin it for you totally? I hope you were able to enjoy it! 🙂 Your comment made me wonder about the experience of actually being there as opposed to looking at photos. I can imagine having the same visceral reaction you described, then arguing with myself about it…gah. It would be so disappointing to find myself in my own head, distracted by these thoughts — when all I’d really want to do is get lost in the Beauty.

        Any creative person knows that their best work is, so to speak, better than they are: that ideas and inspiration and energy came together in a way they couldn’t have willed or planned for in advance. (For some it’s a spiritual experience, for others, just a feeling have of having been in a really good zone!) So viewing a great artist’s work with one judgmental eye on their human failings seems wrong. On the other hand, how much can/should people be asked to overlook or forgive or justify? (I don’t have an answer; the discussion itself is interesting to me.)

        I probably won’t get to see the exhibit, sadly, but will definitely get hold of the book.

        • Anonymous

          It didn’t ruin it in the least, it was just disappointing and a bummer. I mean, he named things for Jack the Ripper, which just strikes me as juvenile and like he was trying way too hard to be shocking. I know this is going to sound really snotty but the overwrought analysis of his work in the exhibit just made him seem not that bright. It’s as though he got a tiny bit of knowledge about something and then considered himself this deep expert on the subject. Anyone with an academic background is likely to find the chaotic, shallow invocation of Big Themes to be fairly ridiculous. But the clothes are magnificent and he was a genius.

          • Anonymous

            The older I get, the more I tend to tune out things like “Artist’s Statements,” and much analysis of the visual arts…that whole fortress of words that may well have been glommed onto the art AFTER the fact. If the work can speak for itself (as with McQueen), I’m usually satisfied — or thrilled! — to let it.

            Of course, it would be wrong to ignore analysis completely because I do want to learn; I just try to be selective. So thanks for forewarning me! I’ll remember to take in the words from, or about, McQueen with a discerning mind…and the images of his magnificent work with an open heart and soul. 🙂

    • This is about the fashion itself as art and not about the people wearing it. In the kind of art-fashion McQueen made, models were simply what frames are to paintings- a method of displaying the creation. Faceless mannequins leave the focus on the clothes.

  • Leah E-H

    Oh, this does make me sad! Every piece is so amazing. I will say, I think they look better when a person is wearing them, perhaps this doesn’t matter if you are seeing the exhibit live though.

    PS–thank you for making the text darker!!! All is now well with the world!

  • Anonymous

    I so wish the Costume Institute wasn’t in the basement at the Met. It needs more light and more room. But if you’re ever in NY, you should go. They always have cool exhibits. And this looks spectacular.

    • Actually, the past few Costume Institute shows have all been in the Cantor Galleries on the 2nd floor. Which isn’t to say there is tons of room at this show (There’s not.) But it’s not in the basement.

      • Agreed on both counts. I got to see this in person yesterday, and it was stunningly fabulous, but the crowds were terrible. And while it wasn’t in the basement, it was still quite hot and stuffy.

  • Anonymous

    I want the black sheer-top dress for my own.

  • Anonymous

    I’m definitely going to go and see these in person.

  • Momzilla

    So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.
    This is the feeling Tennyson was describing.

  • KellyK

    Wow. Just wow.

  • I need Cate Blanchett and SWINTON here, stat! These clothes need to be worn somewhere out and about so there are action shots for me to drool over. Especially some of that Boudicca-esque leather bodice action. This is some amazing stuff.

    • Anonymous

      Anne I just wrote the same thing, only in fewer words. Great minds…

  • Anonymous

    So beautiful. Thank you for taking us there virtually — would love to go in person, but I don’t see that in the cards.

  • Lynn

    Absolutely incredible, There are no words to describe this level of artistry! Why are so many gifted artists such tortured souls? It’s so sad to think about what he would have continued to create if he was still here. I hate the manequins tho, super silence of the lambsish mask creepy, distracting.

  • Liz

    I think freaky is probably the right term for most of this. It’s art, but not wearable fashion.

  • Jill

    I am experiencing a fashion orgasm.

  • Rarely do you ever see fashion that leaves you speechless and breathless. Despairing that I can’t make it back to NYC to see the show, but I’ve already ordered the book.

  • Alyse

    So beautiful…Absolutely stunning and breathtaking.

  • Those clothes are pure genius. I mourn him. His clothes are like he was, from a different plane of existence.

  • Motives

    Are they only designing for Lady Gaga now?

  • Lisa

    Good god, so beautiful. What a waste that he’s gone.

  • Alexis


  • Mac

    Just WOW!

  • Sigh… I can see why Gaga loved him. Breathtaking.

  • Wally

    It becomes art only when it leaves the fashion behind. The two can’t mix, and this collection shows that perfectly.

  • Anonymous

    Exquisite and breathtaking! I’m definitely planning to see this exhibition.

  • Anonymous

    Exquisite and breathtaking! I’m definitely planning to see this exhibition.

  • Anonymous

    Gawd, how I’d love to see this in person. Exquisite beyond words. I must order the book.

  • ask

    I think my fav is the Cousin It dress

  • Anonymous

    I will absolutely be making the trip from Philly to NYC to see this! Cannot wait to see these absolutely stunning works of art up close and personal. I am sure, though, that despite my elation over seeing them, I will be shedding some tears of sadness for the loss of such a creative force.

  • Anonymous

    Yep. Heading into the City for this one, for sure. Stun.ning.

  • Anonymous

    I miss him every time I see one of his designs…

  • CAT

    Just exquisite. How I wish I could go and breathe in every hem, every hand stitched detail. It must be incredible in person.

  • Anonymous

    I just received email notice my catalog has shipped from their online shop!!!!

    Gee, I wish I could make the trip to NYC, but that will hafta do.

    • Anonymous

      desertwind, thank you for reminding me about the catalogue! In fact, looking at these images, I needed someone to remind me to breathe there for a few moments…but the catalogue is almost as good. 🙂

  • Nycjgf

    Hi. There’s a video for those who can’t get to NYC… http://blog.metmuseum.org/alexandermcqueen/about/

  • jzzy55

    It’s totally fabulous, and just where it belongs: on mannequins, in a museum. I don’t mind clothing that is freaky and weird when it’s not on a real person. OK I suffer from a failure of imagination or am just damned conservative or whatever. But I surely did enjoy these images (especially the series at the end — fuckin’ amazing) in a way I’ve never liked his work before.

  • Anonymous

    What I can’t wrap my mind around is that he might have been at his full creative powers another 20-25 years, at a minimum. A good chunk of the work of his we have is what should have been called his “early, developmental period.” It’s as if we had less than two decades of Picasso’s work

  • it’s all glorious. The thing that strikes me the most is how the Met chose to display the gowns. The mannequins almost feel alive. Truly breathtaking. If I wasn’t all the way across the country, I’d be at the museum in a split second.

  • Anonymous

    Oy! I’m so dying to see this exhibit!!!!!

  • R

    What a truly original mind. What an incredible loss.

  • Amazing.

  • Carolyn

    Hopefully I’ll get to see this in June. I can’t wait! I think everything in this exhibit is remarkable.

  • Anonymous

    I would love to see this exhibit.
    I wonder if they have any of the pieces from his St. Martins graduation collection. It was supposedly bought in it’s entirety by Isabela Blow. His first labels were pieces of his own hair encased in cellophane tape.
    The gowns are beautiful, but in my opinion his most influential contribution to fashion was the bumtser trouser from about 1994. The low rise jean trend that lastest 10 years or more can be traced back directly to that collection.

  • Thanks to the mysterious workings of the universe the husband and I are going to be in New York in June (the trip was planned before we even knew about the exhibit) and by god we’re going to see this. I’m almost sick with excitement.

  • Ruth

    This is when I’m so thankful to live in New York. My friend and I will take a day off and melt in a puddle in the middle of the exhibit.

  • PeaceBang

    I was there yesterday for opening day. I still feel high.

  • MilaXX

    I was just texting with a friend trying to coordinate schedules so we can take a trip into the city to see this. I must witness this pretty in person.

  • suzq

    I’m going to see this in person in a few weeks!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Late to the party, but must get there.

  • There is more beauty in his collections than in the combined collections of everyone, everywhere, over all time. What he left us is without peer….and what we lost is immeasurable. Savage beauty indeed…

  • Luminum

    I will always love the butterfly swarm hat…always…

  • Anonymous

    50% Tilda Swinton; 50% Cate Blanchett

  • Anonymous

    50% Tilda Swinton; 50% Cate Blanchett

  • Anonymous

    50% Tilda Swinton; 50% Cate Blanchett

  • Anonymous

    50% Tilda; 50% Cate

  • Pingback: You be my honeysuckle. « Epicuriously Living()

  • Gilabaca

    well gonna have to make my nyc before july 31st! Im dying to see this, already spent too much time browsing online at all the pictures.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t like masks, they kind of trip me out a little… However, I do like looks 5 & 7 in the slideshow, LOVE that shade of ruby. The rest? Meh. McQueen, while talented, has never been to my taste.

  • MercyX

    I like the masks. “For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror…”(Rilke)

    McQueen always puts me in mind of that phrase.

    • Anonymous

      MercyX, quoting Rilke will always earn you a LIKE from me!

  • Tatjana

    Absolutely fascinating. Would love to see it live, the materials, the workmanship. It also seems, from what I can see in the photographs, they did a good job presenting his work. Well, it is the Metropolitan Museum after all.

  • richard

    These are gorgeous, but I do not understand why you refuse to cover the Roberto Capucci retrospective IN YOUR OWN CITY! We’d love to see the pieces and hear your take on them

  • JJ

    Is there some meaning behind the bondage masks?

    That aside, truly awesome stuff.

  • There are no words. I just wished I could see it in person and stare at them for hours.

  • Anonymous

    According to the link provided by Tom and Lorenzo, the head treatments and masks (for display purposes) are designed by Guido.

  • annabegins

    Gorgeous. I simply adore the white beaded empire waisted dress with crimson coat and Faberge egg purse.

  • Anonymous

    Stunning, my heart still weeps at the loss of such a visionary.

  • Anonymous

    I have decided that I am an exceptionally bitter kitten today, after looking at this exhibit on line again. Do I have the sense to live on EITHER coast? NO. So I don’t get to visit the paper gowns in SF nor the McQueen in NYC. And earlier this week I saw the stupid promo where (actor) Jim Parsons touts the glories of Houston’s museums. Well, Mr. Parsons, I have seen some nice exhibits in Houston, which I can actually get to with a reasonable expenditure of time & money, but Houston, we have a problem. You are letting me down big time, here.

    Thank you for allowing me to vent. I realize it will not always be thus. I even realize that I am a pretty lucky individual with a good life. But bitter, at the moment, nonetheless. Oh so bitter.

  • Sigh. I wish I could go see it.

  • mjude


  • Merrigator

    So effing gorgeous I can hardly breathe.

  • bitchybitchybitchy

    I feel that a trip to NYC to view this exhibit is ging to be a must-see for me in short order.

  • Lori B

    Amazing, awesome, thrilling, chilling and, in my opinion, displayed with reverance and respect.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    I see Gwyneth’s infamous “chicken cutlet” dress she wore to the Oscars a few years ago is included in the collection. It looks a hell of a lot better on the mannequin than it did on her. I didn’t even notice the masks; they are so much part of the overall look that I took it all in without paying attention to that aspect. Much better, however, than using department store mannequins with faces. The clothes are the star here, we don’t want any personality interjected.

    • JJ

      Thanks for the explanation. I am a naive unborn fawn, and was wondering if the mask was a part of the original design. If so, did that say something about the model/wearer (she is a blank canvas? unimportant?) or did it just make the model’s lives more difficult? But the explanation that they’re just part of the exhibit fits, and I can relax a bit more, looking at those incredible pieces.

  • Andre

    Simply brilliant.

  • kathryn_dc


  • Cebeswick

    A girlfriend and I went and saw the exhibit yesterday. I must tell all the bitter kittens – run, don’t walk- to the met to experience this collection. The curator did an amazing job of staging, lighting, selection of work. The clothes are so close you can literally be an inch or two away. Stunning. Also, I recommend you walk across Central Park as Bergdorf Goodman has a window collection of some fantastic McQueen pieces in support of the Met exhibit. So head to the apple kittens, and go get you some pretty!

  • Candlelight

    I loved the book photos, by Steve Meisle (I hope I remember that correctly).
    Is there any way to see more of those?
    I am so sad about his death.

  • guestjade

    I’ve seen the exhibit 3 times since it opened. I just want to say that when the creations are viewed as part of an exhibit such as this, I can see where a face (any face) would distract or take away from some of the fantastical creations. I wasn’t offended in the least, quite the opposite. He uplifted more than anything. In the second room, backed by a track called “Disco Bloodbath” and tarnished grand mirrors looming over/behind each creation, we are treated to less than subtle uses of S&M themes-in a glamorous and powerful (lady-power) way. It’s like a haunted house, fashion-art haunted house…it’s glory and pain and power, it’s toying with the ideas he knows you associate with specific imagery. I feel sad that it could be interpreted in any other way than uplifting, that his legacy could be viewed as misogynistic, because everything he did was very layered, very conceptual, and about power of the woman. I am very familiar with the so-called darker sides of the S&M community, I saw bits and pieces throughout his work that looks like he was too. I read that as code. Don’t forget that this man was not some pretty dress designer. He wanted to challenge you, he loved his history, he was not afraid sexually. Come to this exhibit!

  • Tigrlilly81

    I just saw the exhibit on Saturday and it is INCREDIBLE! And haunting and so beautiful its painful! The exhibit design is also incredible…If you’re in NY DON’T miss this show.

  • Sarah Stein Lubrano

     I saw this show and was simply in awe the whole time.

  • Sarah Stein Lubrano

     I saw this show and was simply in awe the whole time.

  • Saw this on Sunday..it was amazing. Seeing it in real life is a totally different experience. The museum did a great job with the exhibit design!

  • Just got to NYC to see this. Amazing in person!

  • Anonymous

    Just saw the exhibit this past weekend.  Talk about fashion as spectacle—fashion as performance art—it was quite the experience!  His use of non-traditional items to make couture clothing is astonishing.  For instance, the two dresses in the first photo: for the red one, the bodice is made of red glass medical slides; the white one is made entirely of razor clam shells.  Extraordinary!  And the whole exhibit is brilliantly curated.  Too bad it was so bloody crowded.

  • I went to see this exhibit THREE times. I just felt I ought to say that, even though it’s a couple months late.