Ensemble, The Girl Who Lived in the Tree, autumn/winter 2008–9

Alexander McQueen (British, 1969–2010)
The Girl Who Lived in the Tree, autumn/winter 2008–9
Coat of red silk satin; dress of ivory silk chiffon embroidered with crystal beads
Courtesy of Alexander McQueen
Photograph © Sølve Sundsbø / Art + Commerce

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Andrew Bolton: This crimson coat and delicate empire-waist dress culminated a collection from 2008–9, inspired by the queens of England. As Sarah Burton explains:

Sarah Burton: It’s an enormous volume of fabric that at the neck is all bulleted and at the hem is all bulleted. But although it’s duchess satin, it still appears very light. And I think he wanted this sort of, you know, this regality but a lightness to it.

Andrew Bolton: The collection, called The Girl Who Lived in the Tree, was dreamy and romantically nationalistic, albeit tinged with irony. Sam Gainsbury produced the runway show for the collection, which featured an enormous tree wrapped in transparent grey silk:

Sam Gainsbury: Mostly Lee would have a very clear idea of who the girl was, and then from that point he would decide where she was, and then he’d decide what she was wearing. He had an amazing tree in his garden in Fairleigh, in his country house, and this tree had always fascinated him. So for me it was about the beauty and the power of this tree.

Andrew Bolton: McQueen conceived a fairy tale about a girl who dressed in beautiful black rags—presented during the first half of the show. When she met her prince, she descended from her tree, and her wardrobe exploded with the color, opulent materials, and jewels you see here.

In McQueen’s Words

“I don’t really get inspired [by specific women]. . . . It’s more in the minds of the women in the past, like Catherine the Great, or Marie Antoinette. People who were doomed. Joan of Arc or Colette. Iconic women.”

Purple Fashion, Summer 2007