Tuesday, 17 March 2015



Does it live up to the hype? It does ... it's ravishing, utterly spell-binding, the fashion show of the century. Even bigger and better - so they say, I wouldn't know - than when it was on in New York.

Savage Beauty, the long-awaited Alexander McQueen show at the V&A makes you feel as if you've disappeared down a rabbithole to find yourself in an alien world of strange, beautiful creatures.

It's exquisite, macabre - and it feels like being immersed in some extraordinary theatrical performance. (In my case, with a walk-on role as Boring Middle-Aged Person in a Raincoat.)

But in this alternative universe, inhabited by people 10inches taller and many stones lighter, there are gowns of clamshells and crimson feathers, a coat of golden goose-feathers, jackets embroidered with human hair and slippers embroidered with gold bullion ...

I spent nearly an hour sitting in the colossal, black-lacquered Cabinet of Curiosities, marvelling at headdresses like branches of coral and animal horns -

I coveted an exquisite Philip Treacy bird's nest hat made of mallard wings and jewelled eggs -

Learned a new word. Plumassier - 

And caught my breath at the wraith-like apparition of Kate Moss who made me think of Catherine Earnshaw rising from her grave.

I'm not sure whether the V&A is strictly controlling the throughput of visitors or whether I was extraordinarily lucky this afternoon (I got there at about 3.30) because there was space to stroll and sit and marvel - and for a few moments at the end of the afternoon, I was all alone in the Cabinet of Curiosities. I'd love to go back, but it wouldn't be the same experience shuffling round in a crowd.

This is a purely visual exhibition. It tells you almost nothing about McQueen. I liked that. I get distracted by words and labels. Being a word-y kind of person, I don't have the self-discipline to ignore the outpouring of too much information.

It was like walking through a work of art - and for once I didn't need to read all about it.

8 comments:

Sue said...

I've been waiting for your thoughts on this show Mary, I felt sure you'd be going. Thank you as always for keeping me up to date.

Katharine A said...

Promised my son, 18, that I'd take him. I was/am keen too. But now am even keener. Fabulous description. Next time you visit an exhibition, what will your persona be?

Gina said...

I can't wait to go and your review has made me look forward to it even more.

mary said...

It's a most beautifully designed exhibition, Sue.

Errr... I think I'm always Boring Middle-Aged Person, Katharine. Sad, but true.
Hope your son enjoys it. There were lots of men there.

You can get close enough to see every seam, Gina - except in the Cabinet of Curiosities which is simply enormous.

Katharine A said...

Saw Thea Porter at Fashion & Textile Museum today. After ditching angst about what to wear, I thoroughly enjoyed it. We went for a free tour which was brilliant. I recommend it. I now want some floaty clothes.

mary said...

It's the 70s stuff that causes me more angst, Katharine - because I feel so much nostalgia for it. (Or nostaIgia for my 20in waist and long, shiny hair!) I can happily step back from McQueen envy and admire the tailoring, but it wasn't my era. Thanks for the reminder because I missed the knitwear exhibition and was kicking myself.

Miranda | Miranda's Notebook said...

It was so wonderful! I've read some criticism that more wasn't said on McQueen's life and the cultural background to his creations, but like you I don't enjoy a lot of labels and did very much enjoy the chance to just stand and look (and admire).

mary said...

But I thought it was appalling that the V&A refused to stock the new biography in the shop. Smacks of censorship/pandering to sponsors.