|A stunning 1999 silk chiffon dress by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy.|
At the exhibit RetroSpective, now on view at The Museum at FIT, I found myself drawn like a magnet to this 1999 painted silk chiffon dress by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy. His design inspiration was the 1833 painting The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche.
Lady Jane Grey is often called the “Nine Days’ Queen” because she was the de facto Queen of England from July 10-19, 1553. As Edward VI, the 15-year-old King of England and son of Henry VIII, was dying, he nominated his cousin Jane to succeed him in order to subvert the claim to the throne of his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth. After his death the Privy Council decided to promote Mary’s claim to the crown instead and accused Lady Jane of high treason. She was executed in February 1554 at the age of 16.
|The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche, 1833.|
The delicacy of the dress reminds me of a McQueen quote from the gallery text at the blockbuster show Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty in 2011:
“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.”
This dress is a perfect example of what he learned at Givenchy with the layers of fluttery ruffles, the sheer bodice, the full billowy sleeves that become tight—and mimic the bodice—at the wrist. And the collar seems like a soft Elizabethan ruff—an ironic nod pointing to who will eventually succeed Jane, perhaps?
Another McQueen quote I found seems fitting in context:
“For me, what I do is an artistic expression which is channeled through me. Fashion is just the medium.”
I agree with him because this dress is a work of art. It is perfectly placed at the beginning of RetroSpective, on view until November 16, 2013.
The Museum at FIT
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