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Terrible beauty

Originally published at Cogs & Neurons. You can comment here or there.

As a side note, I am posting this from a free wireless connection on AmTrak, which in many ways is kind of miraculous, and not the sort of thing one should complain about. So if at some point this thing breaks down into me just frothing at the mouth about shitty connectivity, I apologize.

A while back the Metropolitan Museum in NYC had a retrospective of Alexander McQueen’s work. I was fortunate enough to go and see it (one of the advantages of being an Englishman in New York, as I’m sure Sting could tell you). It was just after McQueen’s suicide and became quite a big thing. Being the snappy social commentator that I am, I’m finally getting around to waxing lyrical about it.

The Horn of Plenty

I should preface this by saying I know both diddly and shit about fashion. And I don’t know much about art, either, though I tend to be of the opinion that art means to you exactly what you get out of it. I happen to dislike, for example, the Impressionists (insipid bastards) but I like to think that’s not a failing of either me or the artists. It’s just what they bring to the party, I don’t like. Other stuff I do. And that’s how I’m approaching McQueen’s fashion. I can’t have overly informed opinions, but I still have opinions. And this is my blog, so I get to inflict them upon you.

You are still reading, right?

The Girl Who Lived in the Tree

My personal aesthetic (which I say because I want to sound like a pretentious ass) tends toward something which I find both beautiful and repelling (this is an art only thing, just in case my wife is reading…) and McQueen’s work sits very squarely in that space for me. There’s a garishness, and angular uncomfortable-ness to his work. It is in some ways deeply unpleasant clothing that seems to have been designed for deeply unpleasant people. And yet there’s something lush, and opulent, and fantastically wonderful about it to. It catches the eye and glitters there for a while.


I also enjoy the total disregard McQueen seems to have for the world around him. High fashion has always seemed an exercise in impracticality to me, (philistine that I am) but McQueen’s clothes seem to take impracticality as a strength, embrace it, and run off screaming into the hills with it to make sweet, sweet, creepy love. These are clothes that almost seem like imports from another world. And such is there power that they start to create that world around them. When I look at his creations I see glimpses of another place, somewhere dark, and austere, and magnificent. Not necessarily some place I’d like to visit, but definitely one I’d like to write about.


The Metropolitan Museum web site still has the McQueen exhibit site up, and it’s well worth taking a look.

Have fun out there. Play safe.


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