“Oyster” Dress, Irere, spring/summer 2003

Alexander McQueen (British, 1969–2010)
“Oyster” Dress
Irere, spring/summer 2003
Ivory silk organza, georgette, and chiffon
Courtesy of Alexander McQueen
Photograph © Sølve Sundsbø / Art + Commerce

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Andrew Bolton: One of the highlights in this gallery is a dress called the “Oyster” Dress, which is made up of hundreds and hundreds of layers of silk organza, almost like a mille-feuille pastry. And the collection told the story of a shipwreck at sea and the subsequent landfall in the Amazon, and it was peopled with pirates, conquistadors, and Amazonian Indians.

And I think that what’s interesting about this particular dress is you see how McQueen evolved as a designer in terms of the fact that he was always well known as a tailor. With this particular dress, you see a much softer approach. As Sarah Burton explains:

Sarah Burton: He wanted this idea of it—was almost like she drowned—and the top part of the dress is all fine boning and tulle, and the chiffon is all frayed and disheveled on the top. The skirt is made out of hundreds and hundreds of circles of organza. Then, with a pen, what Lee did was he drew organic lines. And then all these circles were cut, joined together, and then applied in these lines along the skirt. So you created this organic, oyster-like effect.

Andrew Bolton: He learned softness at Givenchy; he learned draping at Givenchy. And this particular dress, I think, is a real tour de force of the couture and is a great reference to the skills that McQueen learned at the ateliers at Givenchy.

In McQueen’s Words

“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.”

Purple Fashion, Issue 7, Summer 2007

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Irere, spring/summer 2003
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