May 15, 2015 § 1 Comment
If Alexander McQueen’s innovative prints reveal his interest in technology, the designer’s work with tartan shows his engagement with history. Continuing our celebration of Savage Beauty at the V&A, this post looks at McQueen’s use of tartan. (See Part 1: Prints, or my roundup post here.)
The MacQueen clan tartan appears extensively in the designer’s breakthrough collection, Highland Rape (Fall 1995). The collection—which used Lochcarron tartan and lace found in Brick Lane—was a highly personal response to the violence of the Highland Clearances and fashion’s appropriation of Scottish culture (watch Tim Blanks’ show video here):
McQueen also used his family tartan at the house of Givenchy. In his second couture collection, Eclect Dissect (Givenchy haute couture Fall 1997), which was built on the idea of a mad scientist, the McQueen tartan was cut on the bias for tailored pieces overlaid with black lace:
The McQueen tartan reappears the following year in Joan (Fall 1998). Named for Joan of Arc, with an opening soundtrack of burning wood and runway covered in cinders, the collection thematized martyrdom, with the McQueen tartan referencing the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (see Constance C.R. White, Review/Fashion, and Kate Bethune’s note; full collection at firstVIEW):
McQueen also worked with other tartans. The check pattern might be manipulated to appear blurred or bleeding, or it could be overlaid or embellished as in Eclect Dissect. In The Overlook (Fall 1999)—named for the haunted, snowbound lodge built on a Native American burial ground in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980)—a long, grey tailcoat was lined with tartan to match loose trousers, and an overlaid tartan jacket was paired with a balloon skirt in a large blanket check with tartan accents (full collection at firstVIEW):
McQueen’s 1960s-inspired collection, The Man Who Knew Too Much (Fall 2005), included bias-cut separates in a wool ombré check, together with a black, white, and pink check party dress covered in beaded fringe:
The Girl Who Lived in the Tree (Fall 2008), a fanciful narrative of the British Empire, had several bias-cut pieces in a black, white, and red tartan, and two coats in a grey mohair tartan for a bleeding effect:
There were several pieces in the McQueen tartan in Alexander McQueen’s Fall 2006 menswear collection, which was inspired by vampire movies Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and Interview With the Vampire (1994). Vogue editor Hamish Bowles wore the appliquéd kimono-and-pants ensemble to the Costume Institute gala in 2011 (see the collection and read Tim Blanks’ review on style.com; video at AlexanderMcQueen.com):
The same season, McQueen returned to Scottish history with Widows of Culloden (Fall 2006), a romantic collection commemorating the final battle of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. The show invitation had the title in Gaelic: Bantraich de cuil lodair (see Kate Bethune on Widows of Culloden). As in the Givenchy couture, the McQueen tartan was cut on the bias, embroidered, and trimmed with lace and tulle (click to enlarge):
For more see Jonathan Faiers, McQueen and Tartan, and Ghislaine Wood’s essay, “Clan MacQueen,” in the V&A catalogue.
Like other traditional tartans, the McQueen tartan can be ordered from Scottish textile mills in different weights and fibre contents. (It’s often listed as ‘MacQueen.’) Alexander McQueen used tartan from Lochcarron, a mill established in the mid-nineteenth century in the Scottish highlands.
As a memorial to the late designer, Scotweb owner Nick Fiddes designed a mourning version of the MacQueen clan tartan.
What would you make in the McQueen tartan?
Sourcing Tartan Fabric
- Lochcarron has an online shop; Lochcarron tartans are also available through Mackenzie Frain and other suppliers.
- My swatch is from the Scottish Tartans Authority.
- The House of Edgar’s MacQueen Modern tartan is available from the mill’s retail site, tartankilts.com.
- If you prefer ordering locally, many Scottish shops stock fabric and can special-order tartans they don’t have in stock.
May 11, 2015 § 5 Comments
As part of this blog’s celebration of Savage Beauty in London, I’ll be devoting two posts to Alexander McQueen fabrics. (See my earlier roundup post here.) First: a look at McQueen’s distinctive prints.
McQueen’s fellow Central Saint Martins student Simon Ungless, who went on to become director of the School of Fashion at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, designed the barbed hawthorn print in McQueen’s graduate collection, Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims (Fall 1992; interview here. Oberto Gili photographed Isabella Blow in the coat for British Vogue.) Ungless also designed the swallow print in The Birds (Spring 1995):
Freelance print designer and Central Saint Martins Textiles tutor Fleet Bigwood designed fabrics for Alexander McQueen’s first three seasons. (See Fleet Bigwood: Breaking the Rules at Texprint, or the BBC’s Blast videos.) The top in this ensemble from Nihilism (Spring 1994, McQueen’s third collection) was printed using an iron filing paste that was rusted through exposure to air and salt water (see Louise Nutt on Pinterest; full collection at the Fashion Spot, or video here):
In 2002, immediately after presenting his award-winning Central Saint Martins graduate collection, Jonathan Saunders was hired to design prints for Alexander McQueen’s Spring 2003 collection, Irere. Working with designer Christopher Pearson—a member of the Alexander McQueen design team from 2001 to 2006 and a founding member of the company’s fashion print department—Saunders produced Irere’s celebrated Bird-of-Paradise prints (see the V&A on Irere):
The following year, Pearson co-designed the Alexander McQueen skull scarf with Jennefer Osterhoudt, who was head of accessories for McQueen at Givenchy and later at Alexander McQueen. The pattern is based on a skull scarf found in Camden Market:
For McQueen’s later collections, the prints were produced by a team of designers that included textile design interns who might be hired back after graduation. From 2006 to 2011, the company’s head print designer was Central Saint Martins graduate Holly Marler, who is now head of embroidery, fabric, and print design at Temperley London.
Lilly Heine, now head of print fabric development at Dries Van Noten, interned with Jonathan Saunders and later Alexander McQueen as a textiles student. (See her profiles in the Frankfurter Allgemeine [German only] and the Independent.) During her internship at Alexander McQueen, Heine designed some prints for La Dame Bleue (Spring 2008). The collection’s rainbow bird-of-paradise print appeared on several looks including the feather-collared Bird of Paradise dress—recently worn by FKA twigs to perform at the V&A’s Savage Beauty gala:
Torunn Myklebust, today a senior print designer at Givenchy, also did a textile design internship at Alexander McQueen. As an intern, Myklebust worked on prints for Natural Dis-Tinction Un-Natural Selection (Spring 2009), and she rejoined the company in late 2009. (Read an interview in Natt&Dag [Norwegian only]; see Myklebust’s tumblr.) The wood-grain digital print from the Spring 2009 collection was later used for the endpapers of Andrew Bolton’s Savage Beauty catalogue:
In her review of the Spring 2009 collection, Sarah Mower identified engineered prints as a trend out of London: “bright, multicolored allover prints, engineered to fit around jackets, leggings, and cocoon dresses—new on the Paris runway, but also part of a general trend emanating from London’s young designers.” The Spring 2009 advertising campaign, shot by Craig McDean, features a jacket and leggings in one of the collection’s crystalline digital prints:
In her Savage Beauty interview with Tim Blanks, Sarah Burton discusses McQueen’s meticulous design process when working with patterned fabrics such as prints or jacquards. From Fall 2009 on, McQueen would drape the initial design using a rough version of the fabric, with the team producing miniature, 3-D paper dolls to show the pattern placement. When a working version of the fabric was ready, he would finalize the pattern placement on a mannequin, after which the print or jacquard would be re-adjusted to match at the seams. Only then would it be sent into production. (See Andrew Bolton, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, pp. 229-30.)
Frederic Alexander, who worked as an assistant to Holly Marler and now designs for his own label, Saint Etienne, worked on prints for Alexander McQueen’s Pre-Fall 2009 and Fall 2009 collections. The Escher-inspired magpie houndstooth print recalls Simon Ungless’ swallow print:
Advances in inkjet technology enabled the thirty-six circle-engineered digital prints in Plato’s Atlantis (Spring 2010). (For further technical discussion of textiles in Plato’s Atlantis, see the Savage Beauty section of the Alexander McQueen website.) Freelance textile designer Chinsky Cheung interned at Alexander McQueen and returned to the company for several collections, including Plato’s Atlantis. In an article published in Hong Kong’s Milk magazine, she shows aspects of the design process including pattern placement:
(For more scans see Augustine Wong’s post, The Queen of the Prints.)
The Fall 2010 menswear (An Bailitheoir Cnámh – the Bone Collector) and women’s Pre-Fall 2010 collection had the same catacombs print:
The textiles in McQueen’s posthumously presented Fall 2010 collection (known as Angels and Demons) were patterned with digitally manipulated images drawn from early religious painting and sculpture. (See Dazed Digital and the V&A on the collection.) Some of the patterns were not prints but jacquards, while the reworked Old Master prints looked back to pieces like the Fall 1997 Campin crucifixion-printed jacket:
For more on digital prints, see the webpage for the Phoenix Art Museum’s 2013 exhibit, Digital Print Fashion (more in Corbin Chamberlin, “Phoenix Art Museum Embraces New Technology with ‘Digital Print Fashion’ Exhibit“). If you’re interested in designing your own digital prints, Kathryn Brenne recently wrote a primer for Vogue Patterns magazine’s February/March 2015 issue, and textbook on the subject, Digital Textile Design (Laurence King, 2nd ed. 2012).
With thanks to Kate Bethune.
Next: Alexander McQueen and tartan.
March 17, 2015 § 5 Comments
The London incarnation of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty has just opened at the Victoria and Albert Museum. (See British Vogue on the additions to the Costume Institute show.) Accompanying the exhibition is a full calendar of events, including a two-day conference in early June. The exhibition catalogue by Claire Wilcox is available in hardcover and paperback from the V&A, with a North American edition to be published by Abrams in May.
Several London galleries are hosting related exhibitions. At Proud Galleries, McQueen: Backstage – The Early Shows by Gary Wallis presents Wallis’ behind-the-scenes photographs from McQueen’s early career (to April 5, 2015; book). Tate Britain’s Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen: Working Process brings together Nick Waplington’s photographs of The Horn of Plenty (FW 2009), recently published in his 2013 book (to May 17, 2015). At the Gallery at Foyles, Inferno: Alexander McQueen – Photographs by Kent Baker will present backstage photographs from Dante (FW 1996) (March 20 to May 3; book). And next month, London College of Fashion’s Fashion Space Gallery will host Warpaint: Alexander McQueen and Make-Up (April 30 to August 7, 2015).
To celebrate the opening of the London retrospective, here’s a roundup of my posts on sewing patterns by Alexander McQueen, both for Givenchy and his own label:
- Alexander McQueen for Givenchy: Vogue Patterns, Part 1 (1997 collections)
- Alexander McQueen for Givenchy: Vogue Patterns, Part 2 (1998 collections)
- Alexander McQueen for Givenchy: Vogue Patterns, Part 3 (1999 collections)
- Free Designer Pattern: Alexander McQueen kimono jacket
- Vogue 2248 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy
- Year of the Snake: Vogue 2086 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, Part 1
July 25, 2014 § 10 Comments
Versatile and contemporary, jumpsuits and their cousins, playsuits and rompers, have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Jumpsuits—or all-in-ones, if you’re British—seem poised to move beyond a trend this summer.
The modern women’s jumpsuit has origins in two different garments: beach pajamas and the boiler suit. These twin origins mean jumpsuit styles range from fluid loungewear to utility-inspired or tailored designs. (See Vogue Italia for a short history of the jumpsuit.) Here are some favourite all-in-one patterns from the 1930s to the 1990s.
Beach pajamas, often worn with a matching bolero, had become one-piece by the early 1930s. This McCall’s design combines flowing trousers with geometric seaming details in the bodice and hip yoke. A reproduction is available from the Model A Ford Club of America:
The boiler suits of wartime utility wear are said to have made bifurcated clothing more acceptable for women. This Vogue pattern from ca. 1940 includes both a hooded mechanic suit with cuffed trousers and a more casual, short-sleeved version shown in a dotted print:
This early 1940s pajama ensemble with T-back halter bodice was not just for the beach—the envelope says it’s for “beach, dinner or evening”:
In the postwar period, more tailored jumpsuits emerged as a choice for casual sportswear. This early 1950s pedal-pusher coverall has cuffed sleeves and pants and a front zipper closure:
From the late 1950s, this trim, one-piece slack suit from Vogue came in two lengths and with a matching overskirt:
The jumpsuit—sometimes called a culotte or pantdress—truly comes into its own in the later 1960s. Here Birgitta af Klercker models Vogue 2249, a loungewear design by Emilio Pucci (previously featured in my goddess gown post):
In this late 1960s Butterick Young Designers pattern, Mary Quant combines a trim, zip-front jumpsuit with a low-waisted miniskirt for a sleek, futuristic look:
Both pajama and menswear-inspired styles continue into the 1970s. Famous for her palazzo pajamas, Galitzine designed this bi-coloured lounge pantdress with criss-cross halter bodice:
From Calvin Klein, Vogue 1453 marks a return to the boiler suit style. With cargo pockets, self belt, and wide, notched collar, the jumpsuit could be made long or short, with long or short sleeves:
This Bob Mackie disco jumpsuit or evening dress pattern for stretch knits dates to 1980. (See my earlier Bob Mackie post here.) The jumpsuit has a plunging neckline, waistline pleats, and tapered, bias pants designed to crush at the ankles:
An instance of the late 1980s jumpsuit trend, this shirtdress-style jumpsuit by Donna Karan has a notched collar, welt pockets, and cuffed or seven-eighths length kimono sleeves:
Also by Donna Karan, Vogue 2609, ca. 1990, is a long-sleeved, tapered jumpsuit for stretch knits with neckline variations, front pleats, and stirrups. View C has a contrast bodice with self-lined hood:
From 1996, Vogue 1821 by DKNY is almost vintage. It’s a novel suit consisting of a single-breasted jacket and wide-legged, halter jumpsuit:
Finally, this pattern is not yet vintage, but a jumpsuit collection would be incomplete without Vogue 2343, Alexander McQueen’s tailored, tuxedo jumpsuit for Givenchy haute couture Spring/Summer 1998 (earlier post here):
With their demanding fit, jumpsuits are ideal for home sewers. And they’re not just for the tall and leggy: many of the later jumpsuit patterns are marked as suitable for petites.
January 19, 2014 § 11 Comments
I had planned to make the dress in my default black, and had even bought some mesh for the contrast cowl neck. But when I started looking back over runway photos from Givenchy’s neo-noir Fall 1998 ready-to-wear collection, I was struck by the palette of neutrals, electric blue, and especially the combination of oxblood with red.
(There’s a blue version of the original sleeveless dress on eBay. The dress fabric is a nylon/acetate/elastane blend, with acetate lining, and the back zipper reaches all the way up through the cowl.)
I made View B, the sleeveless, mid-calf version, in oxblood with a red cowl neck. I hit Designer Fabrics and found some oxblood wool, red mesh for the contrast cowl, and Bemberg for the lining. The pattern recommends chiffon for the contrast, but I wanted to stick with the mesh used for the runway version. I was a little stumped as to interfacing for the contrast, and even bought some tomato red tricot to use before learning that the best interfacing for mesh is more mesh.
I wanted a close fit, so I ignored the sizing and went by the finished garment measurements printed on the pattern, including 1″ ease at bust and waist and a little more in the hips. I also lengthened the skirt by 1.5″ to achieve the correct length.
This was my first dart-fitted dress, and I had fun sewing my very first contour darts—eventually realizing the virtues of even a makeshift tailor’s ham. The cowl neck is cut on the bias, but this didn’t pose any problems, since the mesh handles much better than chiffon.
With the full lining and absolutely no stretch, the dress feels very old-fashioned to wear. One thing I misjudged was the bodice/cowl part of the bodice—I cut the right size in the bust, but didn’t distribute the extra waist length I was adding between the above-waist and shoulder areas, so it’s a bit on the high side and the cowl neck has a closer fit than in the runway photo. It would have been simpler to cut a size up and take the bodice in at the sides. The “interfaced” mesh is also a little bulky; the extra layer was probably unnecessary.
Since the Fall 1998 collection was inspired by Blade Runner, it seemed appropriate to take photos of the dress at the David Cronenberg: Evolution exhibition at TIFF Bell Lightbox. In the Interzone area, devoted to Naked Lunch (1991), visitors could have their photo taken with a Mugwump:
Naomi took some photos of me upstairs at an extension of the Cronenberg show called Body/Mind/Change (BMC). Visitors to the biotech facility BMC Labs can observe the production of personalized POD (Personal On-Demand) implants, which are held awaiting pickup by their hosts. The BMC Labs facility is still open if you’d like to create your own POD implant:
Here I am in the POD holding area:
A closer view of the mesh cowl neck:
The cowl fastens in the back with hooks and thread eyes:
The lab staff let me hold a brand-new red POD (rara avis—most are colourless):
We were delighted to find BMC Labs at the end of our visit: it was the perfect backdrop for the dress given McQueen’s futuristic, sci-fi inspiration for his collection for Givenchy. I’m crossing my fingers for a red POD of my own…
March 17, 2013 § 10 Comments
Alexander McQueen would have been 44 today. On the occasion of his birthday, here’s a look back at the free pattern McQueen shared with SHOWstudio: the Scanners kimono jacket.
The original kimono jacket was made of black silk, and was shown on the runway with a matching pencil skirt and long gloves:
The kimono jacket is drawn from Scanners, Alexander McQueen’s Fall/Winter 2003 collection. (The invitation to the show was printed with brain scans—CAT scans of the designer’s brain.) This was the year McQueen received his CBE from Queen Elizabeth II, as well as the CFDA’s International Award and his fourth British Fashion Designer of the Year. The models walked across a snowy tundra and along a raised wind tunnel; the design references represented a journey eastward through Siberia, Tibet, and Japan, mixed with geometric prints and McQueen’s signature tailoring. (See Suzy Menkes, “The Collections / Paris: A stellar McQueen; elegance at Viktor & Rolf.”)
Here are the collection images from L’Officiel 1000 modèles (click to enlarge):
Watch the runway video (kimono jacket at about 6:10):
Kimono-inspired designs are a thread running through McQueen’s work. Here are a few more kimono looks by Alexander McQueen, from Eclect Dissect—Givenchy couture, Fall 1997 (as on the McQueen / Nick Knight album cover for Björk’s Homogenic); La Dame Bleue, in memory of Isabella Blow; and the posthumous Fall 2010 collection:
Size: US size 6 / UK size 8 approx. (bust 32″ – waist 24″) *
Fabric requirements: approx. 1.75 metres (about 2 yards) of 60″ fabric / over 3 metres (about 3.25 yards) of 39″ fabric *
See the SHOWstudio submissions gallery here. Toronto’s Mel of inside out inside has made an adapted version in Lida Baday fabric. Blithe of blithe stitches has a post on her metallic Hablon version and also a detailed tutorial.
Update: useful for comparison: the photos of this gold brocade version of the McQueen kimono jacket on 1stdibs:
* Sizes and yardages are approximate and are drawn from Mel and Blithe’s notes on their versions of the kimono jacket.
February 27, 2013 § 3 Comments
I’m a little late to the party, but—as part of Anne of Pretty Grievances’ Jungle January event, I thought it would be fun to use a reptile print to make the strapless dress from Vogue 2086, the first of Vogue Patterns’ Givenchy patterns by Alexander McQueen.
The dress and jacket are from the Fall 1997 prêt-à-porter, McQueen’s first ready-to-wear collection for Givenchy. (See my earlier post here.) As you can see from this Richard Avedon campaign photo, animal prints were a feature of the collection:
The runway collection included not only leopard lace but also leopard dresses, skirts, and coats. (Fashion TV even has a highlights video of the leopard looks on the Givenchy runway; full runway video starting here.) Leopard lace was also used in this strapless catsuit, modelled by Shalom Harlow:
McQueen showed versions of the Vogue 2086 sheath in both leopard and emerald green python (models: Michele Hicks and Naomi Campbell; photos via L’Officiel 1000 modèles):
Coming soon: a post on my reptile print PVC version of the Vogue 2086 strapless dress.