Alexander McQueen Fabric, Part 2: Tartan

May 15, 2015 § 1 Comment

McQueen tartan dresses from Widows of Culloden (FW 2006)

Dresses in the McQueen tartan from Alexander McQueen’s Fall/Winter 2006-7 collection (Widows of Culloden). Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art (via Everything Just So).

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 wool tartan jacket and skirt from the collection of Isabella Blow - Alexander McQueen FW 1995

Jacket of McQueen wool tartan with green wool felt sleeves; skirt of McQueen wool tartan; both from the collection of Isabella Blow. Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1995-96 (Highland Rape). Photo: Sølve Sundsbø. Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Highland Rape runway photos - Alexander McQueen FW 1995

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1995-96 (Highland Rape). Images via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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:

Two tartan looks from Eclect Dissect - Givenchy couture FW 1997

Alexander McQueen for Givenchy Fall/Winter 1997-98 haute couture (Eclect Dissect)

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):

Joan - Alexander McQueen FW1998

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1998-99 (Joan)

Joan - Alexander McQueen FW 1998

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1998-99 (Joan)

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):

Sunniva Stordahl and Hannelore Knuts in grey checks and tartan in Alexander McQueen FW 1999 (The Overlook)

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1999-2000 (The Overlook). Models: Sunniva Stordahl and Hannelore Knuts.

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:

Raquel Zimmermann and Carmen Kass in tartan looks from The Man Who Knew Too Much - McQueen FW 2005

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2005-6 (The Man Who Knew Too Much). Models: Raquel Zimmermann and Carmen Kass. Images via

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:

Alexander McQueen FW 2008

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2008-9 (The Girl Who Lived in the Tree). Models: Sara Blomqvist and Alanna Zimmer. Images via

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; video at

McQueen menswear FW2006 tartan

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2006-7 menswear. Images via

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):

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

Widows of Culloden - Alexander McQueen runway lookbook FW 2006

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.

McQueen / MacQueen tartan swatch

MacQueen Modern tartan swatch from the Scottish Tartans Authority.

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

Alexander McQueen Fabric, Part 1: Prints

May 11, 2015 § 5 Comments

Jack the Ripper McQueen sketch

Sketch by Alexander McQueen, Central Saint Martins MA graduate portfolio, Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims, Fall/Winter 1992. Pencil on distressed paper with fabric swatches. Image via Alexander McQueen.

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):

Coat in pink silk satin printed in thorn pattern, Alexander McQueen FW 1992

Coat, pink silk satin printed in thorn pattern by Simon Ungless, lined in white silk with encapsulated human hair, Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1992 (Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims). Photo: Sølve Sundsbø. Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mr Pearl and Plum Sykes in two swallow print looks, Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 1995 (The Birds)

Two swallow print looks, Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 1995 (The Birds) Models: Mr. Pearl and Plum Sykes.

Silk jacket with swallow print, Alexander McQueen SS 1995 (The Birds)

Silk jacket, Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 1995 (The Birds). Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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):

Fleet Bigwood rust-printed top, Alexander McQueen SS 1994

Ensemble featuring a Fleet Bigwood print for Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 1994 collection (Nihilism). Image via Pinterest.

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):

Jonathan Saunders bird-of-paradise feather print for Alexander McQueen, SS 2003

Feather print for Alexander McQueen, Spring/Summer 2003 (Irere). Image via Christopher Pearson/Cargo.

Alexander McQueen Irere SS 2003 prints by Jonathan Saunders

Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2003 (Irere). Models: Frankie Rayder and Roos van Bosstraeten. Images via

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:

Skull print by Christopher Pearson and Jennefer Osterhoudt for Alexander McQueen, 2002

Skull print by Christopher Pearson and Jennefer Osterhoudt for Alexander McQueen, 2002. Image via Christopher Pearson/Cargo.

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:

Alexander McQueen bird-of-paradise prints, SS 2008 Isabella Blow collection

Alexander McQueen, Spring/Summer 2008 (La Dame Bleue). Models: Taryn Davidson and Viviane Orth. Images via

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:

Wood-grain digital print, Alexander McQueen SS 2009

From a silk/synthetic ensemble by Alexander McQueen, Spring/Summer 2009 (Natural Dis-Tinction Un-Natural Selection). Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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:

Heidi Mount in Craig McDean's Spring 2009 campaign for Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen Spring 2009 ad campaign. Photo: Craig McDean. Image via styleregistry.

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:

Floral and magpie houndstooth prints, Alexander McQueen Pre-Fall and FW 2009-10

Floral print design for Alexander McQueen Pre-Fall 2009; magpie houndstooth print design for Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2009-10 (The Horn of Plenty). Images via Saint Etienne/Cargo.

Alexander McQueen Pre-Fall and Fall 2009

Alexander McQueen Pre-Fall 2009 and Fall/Winter 2009-10 (The Horn of Plenty). Images via

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:

Alexander McQueen SS 2010 look 3 print placement

Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2010 (Plato’s Atlantis). Model: Karmen Pedaru. Images: and Chinsky Cheung/Milk magazine via Augustine Wong.

(For more scans see Augustine Wong’s post, The Queen of the Prints.)

Dress, digitally printed silk satin and silk chiffon, Alexander McQueen SS 2010

Dress, digitally printed silk satin and silk chiffon, by Alexander McQueen, Spring/Summer 2010 (Plato’s Atlantis). Image via the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Fall 2010 menswear (An Bailitheoir Cnámh – the Bone Collector) and women’s Pre-Fall 2010 collection had the same catacombs print:

Catacomb print, Alexander McQueen Fall 2010 men's / women's Pre-Fall 2010-11

Two catacomb print looks, Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2010-11 menswear (An Bailitheoir Cnámh) and Pre-Fall 2010. Images via and Alexander McQueen.

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:

Richard Fairhead's photo of Alexander McQueen Byzantine lion jacquard, Dazed magazine 2010

Alexander McQueen Byzantine lion jacquard, Dazed magazine, October 2010. Photo: Richard Fairhead. Image via Dazed Digital.

Alexander McQueen dress with print based on Stefan Lochner's 15th-century Altarpiece of the Patron Saints of Köln,

Dress, silk print based on Stefan Lochner’s Dombild Altarpiece with underskirt of gilded feathers, Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2010-11. Image via the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Alexander McQueen jacket with Robert Campin 15th c. crucifixion print, FW 1997-98

Jacket, Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 1997-98 (It’s a Jungle Out There). Photo: Sølve Sundsbø. Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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 Melanie Bowles and Ceri Isaac have published a textbook on the subject, Digital Textile Design (Laurence King, 2nd ed. 2012).

With thanks to Kate Bethune.

Next: Alexander McQueen and tartan.

Alexander McQueen Roundup

March 17, 2015 § 5 Comments

Brit Wit: Alexander McQueen in Vogue, October 1997

Vogue, October 1997. Photo: Sean Ellis. Stylist: Isabella Blow.

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.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty in London

Alexander McQueen catalogue - Abrams

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).

Lee doing cartwheels across the lawn, Hilles House, 1994

Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen: Working Process at Tate Britain

Untitled by Kent Baker, from Alexander McQueen's Dante collection, 1996

Warpaint: Alexander McQueen and Make-Up

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:

4 Givenchy McQueen patterns - Vogue 2086, 2157, 2343, 2228

Caitriona Balfe / McQueen kimono jacket

Vogue 2248 by GivenchyVogue 2086 by Givenchy

Alexander McQueen for Givenchy: Vogue Patterns, Part 3

July 25, 2011 § 4 Comments

This week, the final instalment of my three-part series on Vogue Patterns’ Alexander McQueen designs for the house of Givenchy. (See Part 1 here; see Part 2 here.) Our last four designs were drawn from two Givenchy collections presented in 1999: the Fall 1999 and Spring 2000 ready-to-wear.

6. Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Fall/Winter 1999–2000 (shown March 1999)

As its android-meets-cybergoth runway styling made abundantly clear, the Givenchy Fall 1999 ready-to-wear collection took its theme from the new millennium. The New York Times’ Cathy Horyn reported that “Alexander McQueen … staged his Givenchy show Wednesday with models in Martian pancake and frizzled wigs walking robotlike down a mirrored runway beaming with airport lights. The collection vividly showcased Mr. McQueen’s laser-sharp tailoring—lunar-white trouser suits with crosses etched out in gray fur, slick coats with the couture equivalent of clear plastic upholstery covers, silvery leathers and a molded red top that would enhance any alien bosom” (Cathy Horyn, “Down to Earth in Paris”).

Vogue Patterns nonetheless chose two designs from the Fall 1999–2000 ready-to-wear collection. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the company opted to produce its own promotional photos, which has the effect of highlighting the tailoring—the emerging theme of this series of Vogue patterns. The first, Vogue 2467 (1999), is a double-breasted pantsuit with concealed front closure:

Givenchy by Alexander McQueen pattern Vogue 2467

Vogue 2467 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (1999) Buttonless double-breasted pantsuit.

Technical drawing for Vogue 2467

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Jacket & Pants: Close-fitting, fully interfaced, lined, double-breasted, below-hip jacket has collar, seam detail around collar, shoulder pads, front extending to side back and into flaps, no side seams, concealed welt pockets, back vent and long, two-piece sleeves with mock vent. Semi-fitted, lined, wide-legged pants have waistband, yokes and mock-fly zipper. Featured in the September/October 2000 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine. (Vogue 2467 was sold in single sizes, rather than the usual size range.)

This Corbis photo shows the runway version of Vogue 2467:

Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Fall/Winter 1999-2000, Corbis image © Baril/Roncen

Here are L’Officiel‘s collection images:

L’Officiel 1000 modèles 1999 no. 5 via

L’Officiel 1000 modèles 1999 no. 5 via

The second pattern, Vogue 2478 (2000), is a pantsuit with inverted lapels and seaming detail on the jacket front:

Givenchy by Alexander McQueen pattern Vogue 2478

Vogue 2478 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (2000) Pantsuit with inverted lapels.

Technical drawing for Vogue 2478

The envelope description reads: Misses’ Jacket & Pants: Semi-fitted, fully interfaced, lined, below-hip or below-mid-knee jacket has upper collar and side-front cut in-one, shoulder pads, side-front pockets, side-back seams, front zipper and longer than regular length, two-piece sleeves with mock vent. B: side slits. Wide-legged, floor-length, lined pants have front button waistband, welt pockets and mock-fly zipper.

Here’s the Corbis runway photo of the Vogue 2478 design:

Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Fall/Winter 1999-2000, Corbis image © Baril/Roncen.

Just for fun, here are two editorial images of Givenchy’s Fall 1999 ready-to-wear from W magazine that show the collection’s different potential emphases. The first shoot follows Claudia Schiffer in Cannes, while the second re-imagines Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” starring Guinevere Van Seenus (slightly cropped by my scanner):

Givenchy’s polyester, elastin and Lurex metallic suit, by Alexander McQueen. W magazine, September 1999. Photo: Juergen Teller. Stylist: Michel Botbol.

(Vogue took a similar tack in its September 1999 issue in this editorial photo by Mario Testino.)

Givenchy’s stretch silk georgette catsuit, by Alexander McQueen. W magazine, January 2000. Photo: Michael Thompson. Stylist: Joe Zee.

Parallel Alexander McQueen collection: The Overlook (FW 1999–2000)

7. Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Spring/Summer 2000 (shown October 1999)

For this “sporty” collection, the Carrousel du Louvre was transformed into a high school gymnasium, with the models posing on a tiered podium. The Spring collection is viewable on

Vogue Patterns’ first selection from this collection, Vogue 2486 (2001), is a pantsuit with a ‘tail’ extending into draped panels. View A includes capri pants:

Givenchy by Alexander McQueen pattern Vogue 2486

Vogue 2486 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (2001) Pantsuit with extended ‘tails.’

Technical drawing for Vogue 2486

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Jacket & Pants: Semi-fitted, lined jacket, mid-calf (center back) has collar, shoulder pads, side panels, no side seams, pockets, self-lined lower back and long, two-piece sleeves. Below waist, tapered or straight-legged pants have shaped waistband and fly zipper. A: lower calf, side back seams with pleat/zipper. B: side front pockets. Purchased top. Featured in the November/December 2000 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine.

Runway photos of the Spring/Summer 2000 collection show the variations on Vogue 2486’s updated tailcoat. As you can see, the purple version on Angela Lindvall is sleeveless and has a longer tail, while the sleeveless, leather version on Gisele Bündchen has a narrower tail. The purple suit also shows the collection’s athletic wear-inspired pant cuffs, which are omitted from the long pants in Vogue 2486.

Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Spring/Summer 2000 via

Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Spring/Summer 2000 via

Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Spring/Summer 2000 via

Here are L’Officiel’s collection images:

L'Officiel 1000 modèles 1999 no. 8 via

L'Officiel 1000 modèles 1999 no. 8 via

Vogue Patterns’ second selection, Vogue 2653 (2002), is the last in our series—a sleek suit with decorative hand stitching:

Givenchy by Alexander McQueen pattern Vogue 2653

Vogue 2653 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (2002) Skirt suit/pantsuit with decorative hand stitching.

Technical drawing for Vogue 2653

The envelope description reads: Misses’ Jacket, Skirt & Pants: Semi-fitted, partially interfaced, lined, above-hip jacket has collar/loop, shoulder pads, seam detail, front concealed zipper and long, two-piece sleeves. Semi-fitted, straight, lined skirt, above mid-knee, has shaped yokes, right back seam/slit, left back pocket and side zipper. Semi-fitted, slightly tapered pants have contour waistband, seam detail, back slit and fly zipper closing. All have decorative hand stitching. Featured in the April/May 2002 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine (Shop Vogue).

Here’s the pantsuit version; the jacket is quite different from the one in Vogue 2653:

Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Spring/Summer 2000 via

The decorative stitching seen in Vogue 2653 was also showcased in the Givenchy Spring advertising campaign featuring Karen Elson:

Givenchy Spring 2000. Photo: David Sims.

Parallel Alexander McQueen collection: Eye (SS 2000)

As far as I know, Vogue 2653 was the last Givenchy pattern released by Vogue Patterns. For whatever reason, the two companies’ licensing agreement seems to have ended with the Spring 2000 ready-to-wear. Luckily the agreement lasted a few years into Alexander McQueen’s tenure at the house, giving us this collection of sewing patterns from a period that was influential in McQueen’s development as a designer. As he later recalled:

“Working in the atelier [at Givenchy] was fundamental to my career …. Because I was a tailor, I didn’t totally understand softness, or lightness. I learned lightness at Givenchy. I was a tailor at Savile Row. At Givenchy I learned to soften. For me, it was an education. As a designer I could have left it behind. But working at Givenchy helped me learn my craft.”

—from Purple Fashion, Summer 2007, quoted in Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.

Alexander McQueen for Givenchy: Vogue Patterns, Part 2

July 18, 2011 § 10 Comments

This week, the second instalment of my continuing three-part series on Alexander McQueen’s Givenchy designs for Vogue Patterns. (Read Part 1 here.) Our next four patterns were drawn from three Givenchy collections presented in 1998: the Fall 1998 and Spring 1999 ready-to-wear, and the Spring 1998 couture.

3. Givenchy Haute Couture Spring/Summer 1998 (shown January 1998)

The January Givenchy Haute Couture collection was shown in a Japanese bonsai garden. The models, styled with kabuki makeup and lacquered hair, were silhouetted on a screen before they emerged onto the runway. Critics noted the collection’s precision tailoring, especially the pagoda-shouldered jackets. (See Suzy Menkes, “Givenchy and McQueen Opt for Zen” and Constance C.R. White, “For Couture, New Ways to Seduce.”)

(I wasn’t able to find titles for any further Givenchy collections. If anyone knows of a resource for these I’d appreciate it if you could contact me. Thanks!)

Vogue Patterns’ selection, Vogue 2343 (1999), is the only pattern in this series from an Haute Couture collection:

Givenchy by Alexander McQueen pattern Vogue 2343

Vogue 2343 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (1999) Tuxedo jumpsuit.

Technical drawing for Vogue 2343

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’/Misses’ Petite Jumpsuit: Semi-fitted, lined, straight-legged jumpsuit (loose-fitting through hips) has collar, shoulder pads, welt/side pockets, side zipper, front button trim and long, two-piece sleeves with mock vent/button trim. B: contrast upper collar/front facing. Purchased top. Featured in the November/December 1999 issue of Vogue Patterns (Shop Vogue).

This design was easy to place, since the staging in the Vogue pattern photo matches the staging shown in L’Officiel‘s collection photos for the Givenchy Spring 1998 couture show:

L'Officiel 1000 modèles 1998 no. 10 via

L’Officiel 1000 modèles 1998 no. 10 via

(You can always follow the L’Officiel link to see larger collection images.) Just for fun, here’s a Vogue Paris editorial photo of Guinevere Van Seenus in another look from the season’s Givenchy couture:

Jacket with pleated sleeves in Prince of Wales wool gabardine and matching straight skirt, Givenchy Couture. Vogue Paris, Février 1998. Photo: Steven Klein. Stylist: Debra Scherer.

The Vogue 2343 jumpsuit was promoted in the magazine’s holiday issue. I’m fascinated by the fact that this pattern gives dressmakers and home sewers access to couture tailoring of this calibre. The design is probably my favourite of the series.

(No parallel Alexander McQueen collection, since the designer didn’t produce haute couture collections for his own label.)

4. Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Fall/Winter 1998–99 (shown March 1998)

The Fall 1998-99 Givenchy ready-to-wear collection drew praise for its draped cowl necks, sleek tailoring, and its skilled use of leather and fur. (See Suzy Menkes, “McQueen Makes Peace With His Heritage” and Anne-Marie Schiro, “McQueen Pilots Givenchy Boldly Into the Late 90’s.”) In May, WWD announced the renewal of McQueen’s contract with Givenchy, which had been due to expire with the Spring 1999 ready-to-wear (Bridget Foley, “McQueen Renews Givenchy Contract”). For the Fall runway show, the models were made up with vampy red lips, their hair in exaggerated 1940s-style rolls.

It seems the Fall collection’s success led it to be chosen to open the supplement of L’Officiel devoted to the season’s Paris ready-to-wear. Here are L’Officiel’s collection images:

L'Officiel 1000 modèles 1998 no. 12 via

L'Officiel 1000 modèles 1998 no. 12 via

L'Officiel 1000 modèles 1998 no. 12 via

Vogue Patterns chose two designs from Givenchy’s Fall 1998 ready-to-wear collection. The first, Vogue 2228 (1998), is a slim, fur-trimmed skirt suit:
Givenchy by Alexander McQueen pattern Vogue 2228

Vogue 2228 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (1998) Faux fur-trimmed skirt suit.

Technical drawing for Vogue 2228

The envelope description reads: Misses’ Jacket & Skirt: Semi-fitted, interfaced, lined above hip jacket has contrast collar/hemband, shoulder pads, princess seams, no side seams and long, two-piece sleeves with mock vent and button/buttonhole trim. No provision for above waist adjustment. Semi-fitted, tapered, lined skirt, below mid-knee or mid-calf, has waistband, front hemline slit and side zipper. Featured in the January/February 1999 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine (Shop Vogue).

FirstVIEW runway images for this collection have been posted at The Fashion Spot. Here’s the runway photo for the Vogue 2228 skirt suit:

Givenchy RTW Fall 1998-99

Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Fall/Winter 1998-99. FirstVIEW image via The Fashion Spot.

The Fall 1998 campaign featuring Erin O’Connor showcased a similar design, a fur-trimmed coatdress:

Givenchy Fall 1998. Photo: Steven Meisel. Image via eBay.

The second pattern, Vogue 2248 (1999), is a cowl neck dress:

Givenchy by Alexander McQueen pattern Vogue 2248

Vogue 2248 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (1999) Dress with contrast cowl neck.

Technical drawing for Vogue 2248

Here’s the envelope description: Misses’ Dress: Fitted, tapered, lined dress, below mid-knee or mid-calf, has contrast cowl, front slit and back zipper. A: long sleeves. B: sleeveless. The pattern recommends chiffon for the contrast cowl.

This Corbis runway closeup shows the detail of the cowl neck, which was netting (not chiffon) fabric:

Dress with neck line in netting, Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Fall/Winter 1998-99. Corbis image © Thierry Orban.

Although there are similar cowl neck looks in the collection, I couldn’t find the sleeveless version shown in the Vogue 2248 pattern illustration (view B). It seems it wasn’t a runway look.

Parallel Alexander McQueen collection: Joan (FW 1998–99).

5. Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Spring/Summer 1999 (shown October 1998)

The Spring ready-to-wear collection represented a departure from Alexander McQueen’s previous work for Givenchy: the softer silhouettes, neutral palette, and occasional, subtle sprinkling of sequins recalled the understated elegance for which Hubert de Givenchy was known. At the same time, McQueen played with his signature tailoring by using asymmetry and isolated tailoring motifs. (See Suzy Menkes, “Growing Up and Freshening Up at Givenchy and Chloe.”)

Vogue Patterns’ selection, Vogue 2628 (2002), is an asymmetrical, double-breasted coatdress:

Givenchy by Alexander McQueen pattern Vogue 2628 Colette Pechekhonova

Vogue 2628 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (2002) Asymmetrical coatdress. Model: Colette Pechekhonova.

Technical drawing for Vogue 2628

The envelope description reads: Misses’ Dress: Fitted, A-line, lined, double-breasted dress, above mid-knee, has collar, shoulder pads, seam detail (no side seams), welt pockets, flaps, shaped hemline and two-piece, above-elbow sleeves with mock vent/button/buttonhole trim. A: button tab. B: contrast collar. Featured in the April/May 2002 issue of Vogue Patterns magazine (Shop Vogue).

As you can see from the copyright date, Vogue 2628 was released several years after the collection was presented in Paris. Despite its runway photo, I had more difficulty placing the design until I found this Corbis photo, which shows the same dark, glossy runway, palette, hair, makeup, and even shoes:

Skirt suit, Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Spring/Summer 1999. Corbis image © Pierre Vauthey.

In fact, this look was shown just before ours: the back of this model is visible behind the model in the Vogue pattern photo. I thought I recognized the shoes with moulded toes from the Savage Beauty exhibit, but I see from the catalogue that those ones are from Natural Dis-tinction Un-natural Selection (Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2009).

Here are a couple L’Officiel photos that show the Givenchy Spring/Summer 1999 collection’s softness and neutrals:

L'Officiel 1000 modèles 1998 no. 2 via

L’Officiel 1000 modèles 1998 no. 2 via

The asymmetrical motif in Vogue 2628 was carried over into McQueen’s next collection for Givenchy, the Spring/Summer 1999 Haute Couture, as may be seen in this editorial photo in the Vogue Italia couture supplement (with Małgosia Bela on the right):

Vogue Italia, Marzo 1999. Silk satin and wool pantsuits with striped satin shirts and ties, Givenchy Haute Couture. Photo: Peter Lindbergh.

Parallel Alexander McQueen collection: No. 13 (SS 1999).

I would love to see photos of these patterns made up. Across the series of McQueen/Givenchy Vogue Patterns, though, the difficulty level ranges from Average to Advanced, so you could say they’re restricted to more experienced sewers. (I’ve only come across one pattern in the series—the evening suit, Vogue 2086—that had been cut out.) Which would you make first?

Next: Part 3: McQueen’s tailoring for the millennium at Givenchy.

Alexander McQueen for Givenchy: Vogue Patterns, Part 1

July 11, 2011 § 13 Comments

In honour of Alexander McQueen, currently the subject of the retrospective Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, I’d like to dedicate my inaugural blog posts to some fashion ephemera with an interesting connection to the late designer.

Between 1998 and 2002, Vogue Patterns released a series of licensed designer sewing patterns based on Givenchy designs by Alexander McQueen. These patterns provide an opportunity to study—as well as to recreate—a body of work by McQueen that is less well known than his work for his own label.

The eleven Vogue patterns represent seven collections presented by the house of Givenchy in the late 1990s. In my next three blog posts I’ll share the results of my project to match the patterns to the collections shown on the Paris runway.

Because Vogue Patterns didn’t always release these designs in the sequence in which they were shown, I’ve grouped them by collection, noting the copyright date found on my copy of each pattern. Many of the designs were photographed for the magazine’s editorials; they were usually introduced in the ‘Shop Vogue’ section in the back, often with a runway photo that helps identify the collection from which it was drawn. I’ve noted where this is the case. To facilitate comparison, I’ve also added a link to the parallel McQueen collection.

1. Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Fall/Winter 1997–98 (shown March 1997)

For their first patterns by Givenchy’s new designer, Vogue Patterns selected two designs from Alexander McQueen’s second collection for the house, the Fall 1997 ready-to-wear, which was shown in a Parisian slaughterhouse. The first is a sharply tailored evening suit, Vogue 2086, modelled by Jacki Adams:

Givenchy by Alexander McQueen pattern Vogue 2086

Vogue 2086 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (1998) Strapless sheath and jacket with pierced front.

Technical drawing for Vogue 2086

Here’s the description from the pattern envelope: Misses’ Jacket and Dress: Semi-fitted, partially interfaced, lined, below hip jacket has front shield extending into back collar with opening for lapels, shoulder pads, side panels, no side seams, side front pockets and long, two-piece sleeves. Close-fitting, tapered, lined dress, below mid-knee, has front princess seams, side front slit, foundation with optional bust pads, inside belt and side zipper.

This design was pictured on the cover of the March/April 1998 issue of Vogue Patterns:

Vogue Patterns, March/April 1998. Model: Jacki Adams. Image via eBay.

Vogue 2086 remained in print for at least two years: Vogue Patterns was still promoting it in the May/June 2000 issue of the magazine (Shop Vogue).

This WWD image from the ready-to-wear collection shows the same green moiré. Vogue Paris put the jacket on the cover (as part of a pantsuit) on Chandra North:

Suit by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, Vogue Paris, Août 1997

Vogue Patterns’ second selection from the collection is a two-in-one design for a pantsuit or short coatdress, Vogue 2183:

Givenchy by Alexander McQueen pattern Vogue 2183

Vogue 2183 by by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (1998) Double-breasted pantsuit/coatdress.

Technical drawing for Vogue 2183

Here’s the pattern envelope description: Misses’/Misses’ Petite Jacket, Dress & Pants: Loose fitting, partially interfaced, lined, double breasted, below hip jacket or straight dress, above mid-knee, has collar, slightly extended shoulders, shoulder pads, side panels, no side seams, flaps, welt pockets and long, two-piece sleeves. Semi-fitted, lined, straight-legged, floor length pants have waistband, side front pockets and fly zipper closing. Featured in the November/December 1998 issue of Vogue Patterns (Shop Vogue).

Images from the collection show variations on the strapless sheath and tailored pantsuit/coatdress:

(All three images are from L’Officiel 1000 modèles 1997 no. 6 via The Fashion Spot.)

Vogue 2183 is also very similar to a suit shown on Amy Wesson in the January couture show. This was McQueen’s first collection for the house, entitled The Search for the Golden Fleece (Givenchy Haute Couture Spring/Summer 1997). In this collection image from L’Officiel, the pantsuit is in the bottom row, third from the left:

L’Officiel 1000 modèles 1997 no. 4 via

Flickr member pogisto has posted images for the entire couture collection; here’s the pantsuit. Just for fun, here’s an editorial photo of Stella Tennant in the dress with gold ivy, from Harper’s Bazaar:

Harper’s Bazaar, May 1997. Silk crepe bias-cut dress with gold ivy, Givenchy Haute Couture by Alexander McQueen. Photo: Craig McDean. Fashion editor: Melanie Ward.

Parallel Alexander McQueen collection: It’s a Jungle Out There (FW 1997–98). The Givenchy Couture collection that followed is Eclect Dissect (FW 1997–98).

2. Givenchy Prêt-à-porter Spring/Summer 1998 (shown October 1997)

This collection had a glitzy, Wild West theme. The International Herald Tribune’s Suzy Menkes summarized, “Think Calamity Jane calling in at a sex shop” (“Glitter Gulch from Givenchy As McQueen Goes Wild West”), which doesn’t sound as bad as intended to me. In any case, Vogue Patterns’ selection, Vogue 2157, a bias slip dress with optional overlay, seems to have been one of their most popular McQueen/Givenchy designs:

Givenchy by Alexander McQueen pattern Vogue 2157

Vogue 2157 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (1998) Asymmetrical bias-cut dress

Envelope description: Misses’ Dress: Close-fitting, bias, flared, pullover dress, mid-knee (center back), has shoulder straps, seam detail and shaped hemline. A: sheer. Note: A is shown over B. Featured in the July/August 1998 issue of Vogue Patterns (Shop Vogue ‘cover’).

The Vogue 2157 dress is visible on the lower left in this L’Officiel collection image:

L’Officiel 1000 modèles 1997 no. 9 via

Parallel Alexander McQueen collection: Untitled (Spring/Summer 1998).

Have you seen any of these patterns made up? Do the Givenchy designs show any connections to McQueen’s work for his own label?

Bonus: SHOWstudio has a free Alexander McQueen pattern download—a kimono jacket from Scanners (FW 2003–4). See my post on the SHOWstudio pattern here.

Next: Part 2: McQueen hits his stride at Givenchy.

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