Harriet Walker: This is high fashion that appeals to the masses

Share
Related Topics

When I went to the Met in June, the queue snaked through the post-Renaissance portraiture wing and included people of every nationality, age and creed. What Savage Beauty has – and it is something that many other fashion exhibitions do not – was universal appeal.

The Met exhibitions, which are some of the biggest events in the fashion calendar, are usually sponsored up to the hilt and draw on collectors around the globe. But Savage Beauty presented rare work from McQueen's own archive. Collaborators, apprentices and aficionados produced an exhibition that was not so much about story-telling as collective memory.

Of course, the layout and presentation were impeccable – Anna Wintour is on the board of the museum, after all – and dresses were presented on ghostly mannequins fashioned from digital renderings of McQueen's own fit model. There were clothes from every era here, emphasising the versatility of this visionary even as they spoke of a career cut short.

There were provocative pieces – such as the torn Highland Rape dresses and "bumster" trousers. There were also fairy-tale confections laced with mummified fresh flowers, beautiful ballgowns of whispering silk and painstaking proportion-play with structure and the feminine silhouette, often extreme but always effective.

Exhibits came alive with footage from McQueen's notoriously grand catwalk shows, but were mesmerising enough on their own. To see them up close was to understand the mastery of their creator. It was the perfect balance of clothes to awe, inspire and fall in love with, and clothes to provoke the sort of contemplative response usually deemed beyond mere "fashion".

The broader story of McQueen's life and work has since his death been given the easy gloss of a modern tragedy: an East End boy made good, his talent noticed by the institutions and presented on a global stage with such vigour and bombast that he was left powerless in the face of commercial and personal pressures. But, while this may be what gets people through the Met's doors, it isn't really what is at its heart.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
UK Border Control  

Do you think I'm feckless? I worked for two years in the Netherlands

David Ryan
Bob Geldof  

Ebola is a political AND a medical disease

Paul Vallely
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin