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Alexander MCQueen at the V&A

Cover picture: Alexander McQueen jacket from the Angels and Demons collection. Image via Pinterest.

I didn’t get to see the exhibit Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty when it was being shown at the Metropolitan Museum in New York a few years ago, so when I saw that it was going to be in London I knew I had to go. My husband and I took a National Express bus from Bristol, early one Saturday morning, hoping to arrive before tickets sold out. We were lucky and got to walk right into the exhibit after waiting in line for tickets for about 20 minutes.

The exhibit was laid out quite well. When you thought it was about to end, it kept on going and each room had new surprises. Unfortunately, but understandably, nobody was allowed to take pictures and I wasn’t going to try and sneak a blurry shot for fear of being thrown out, but the experience was enough.

Each room had a theme and they progressed from McQueen’s early designs at school into more elaborate pieces. I couldn’t even begin to decide which was my favorite piece, because everything was so exquisite and unique. Although, if I had to choose, it would be the high necked billowing white gown with a bodice made of gold feathers. The breathtaking piece is made even more poignant by the fact that it’s from the collection that debuted right after the designer’s death.

I can’t praise the exhibit completely, though. There were definitely flaws. The crowd control could have been handled a lot better and some of the display elements were a bit misplaced. For example, the shoes should not have been put on the mannequins’ feet. Mannequins’ feet, if you’ve ever seen them, are not like normal human feet. They’re too smooth and arched for shoes, so the shoes don’t fit properly and can be damaged. Additionally, the mannequins should have been laid out so people could walk around them, they are 3D objects after all. Having the clothes displayed around the rooms forced viewers to walk at the edge of every plinth, staring down at the barely visible labels, instead of actually looking at the works of art and videos. In museum studies classes we debated about labels and guiding the viewer often. I stand somewhere in the middle of the spectrum; small labels are necessary to tell the viewer what something is, which the V&A succeeded at, but directing the viewer into small space after small space gets a bit tiring. I don’t like to feel herded along with the rest of the crowd.

However, if you learn to ignore the crowds of people and just focus on the beautiful works of art in front of you, the exhibit is definitely a success. Not all exhibits can make a person emotional, but when I walked out of that one I definitely felt in awe of all the hard work and passion put into those clothes. Even my husband felt it was worth the money.

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