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March 10, 2008

The Birth of Venus

Posted in: Dresses

Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen (British, b. 1969). “Oyster Dress,” spring/summer 2003. Ivory silk chiffon and silk organza. Purchase, Gould Family Foundation, in memory of Jo Copeland, 2003 (2003.462).

The premise of Alexander McQueen’s spring/summer 2003 presentation was of a shipwreck at sea and a consequent landfall in the Amazon. Critics lauded McQueen for his designs because they retained the theatrical and transporting impact of the presentation but also yielded wearable and desirable fashions. The “Oyster” dress, while dramatic in its sweep and red-carpet authority, benefits even further by close examination. As Women’s Wear Daily noted, “Fabulous though this presentation was, the clothes are better up close, revealing a mind-boggling degree of creativity and work.” Attached to a beautifully fitted and boned corset, the voluminous skirt is comprised of hundreds of graduated layers of ivory organza. Like a mille-feuille pastry, each layer both conforms to and detaches itself from every other layer of silk. With a post-modernist’s irony and deconstructivist’s preference for worn effects, the silk is left with an unfinished, raw, cut edge. Elsewhere on the gown, silk chiffon is conscientiously pieced and applied to create a slightly matte surface to the bodice and left unfinished as it extends at the shoulders to curdle along its edges like kelp or skin after an exfoliating burn.

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