Well alright, Mama. Anticipating a ‘baptism’ (if that’s the word)? Or something a bit more, uh, profane? Well there’s a reason Abbé Suger, Sixtus V, Jean-le-Loup, et al. built their towers so high. And yes, it is that Church of Spenser’s Duessa and Archimago, as opposed merely to the ‘High’ Church, that Sarah Burton specifically invokes in her collection prospectus. With both an English cardinal and the Pope himself resigning, I suppose the timing couldn’t be better. But after the ‘communion’ dresses and papal ‘Swiss guards,’ the collection veers off into a realm of McQueen fantasy that once would have been presumed the exclusive province of the Folies Bergère and a few legendary Catholic prelates.
I had a feeling collars would be morphing in an Elizabethan direction over the last year (see my previous posts); but believe me I had no idea. The word is out that Sarah Burton was in the last trimester of her pregnancy when she was putting together this collection – which almost amounts to a second couture collection. (The McQueen atelier is not the only house whose ‘ready-to-wear’ collection is produced on the order of a couture collection. Rodarte famously operates its studio in this fashion – albeit without the kind of top-flight artisanal expertise that is still only found in Paris – and there are a number of other studios that produce similarly finished garments for runway presentation.) There were only ten ‘looks’ to the collection, but they were all heavily freighted with Elizabethan (much more than specifically ecclesiastic) references – not just the lace ruffs (and the abundance of lace, generally), but the jeweled ‘cages’ that screened each model’s head (the hair done in tight all-over ringlets), the pearls and seed pearls that seemed to adorn every surface, the heavily embroidered brocade bodices reminiscent of 16th and 17th century stomachers, the doublet-silhouette suggested by those ‘Swiss guard’ peplums and divided skirts, or pageboy touches in those feathery jackets.
Although the mood is a real part of the fashion here, we might look past the grisaille lancets of those cardinal-chorine (or were they ‘nuns’?) mini-dresses or the ‘angels’ pearly-gate bodices at the clothes we might actually be seeing in the stores. I only wish we did see more of those ruffs – in lace, organza or voile – or such cages or veils; though I have noticed a number of hats (usually vintage) worn with veils on rare evenings out. But certainly we’re seeing a lot of feathers – in jackets, as trims, and all-over ornament. I expect we’ll be seeing some of those feathered jackets in stores. We’ve already seen McQueen’s embroidered bodices in evening dresses on several red carpets. The sheer bodice with variously exposed or adorned neck and shoulders is already seen in a number of design incarnations; and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some mini-dresses (or habits?) along these lines – with or without slashed sleeves, train or cape (themselves all trends seen in other design lines). The capelet or flounce, (or altar-screen?) wrapping the bodice (or off-the-shoulder peasant blouse) also threatens to become something of a trend (sometimes with exposed midriff in other lines).
Did you notice the black (or white) talons (‘hand-less’ gloves) on the models’ fingers? I couldn’t help thinking of a few other birds (besides cardinals) – eagles, ravens, owls, falcons, and all those sweet birds swept away beneath history’s stealth wingspan. I think McQueen would have loved it; but the show left the viewer perched precariously between nests long abandoned and destinations far from celestial.