Wow! I was expecting frocks, maybe even unwearable frocks along with shoes that defy gravity. I was not expecting an emotional rollercoaster, that’s not usually on the agenda for a display of expensive clothes. I’m still at a loss as to why I found Savage Beauty so moving, maybe it was the way that the transition from one room to another sometimes involved entering a dark tunnel. Maybe it was the music which was especially designed by John Gosling who worked with Alexander McQueen on his catwalk shows. Maybe it was the way that each room was completely different to the next. Maybe it was the fact that I wanted so many of the clothes.
Each room has a completely different feel. You begin with a stark space filled with mannequins clad in outfits that are informed by his early career in Saville Row. Next you are into a space entitled Romantic Gothic where the frocks are encased in a gilded cage. From there you are plunged into a dark bone-lined corridor to emerge into what feels like a cave. Next you are into a wooden-panelled Scottish baronial castle which contains the dress that I would like most in my wardrobe. Its white silk with a fitted bodice decorated with ruby red Swarovski crystals and knee length tulle skirt.
Deciding where to look and what to look at is your first task in the double height room entitled Cabinet of Curiosities. In the centre twirls a mannequin in a frock beneath a video showing the catwalk show where it was first seen. The walls are filled with boxes containing hats, dresses, shoes, more video displays and rather wonderfully a shell top made of mussel shells.
Alexander McQueen often came to the V&A in search of inspiration, so it is fitting that this retrospective is hosted at the museum. Once you have seen the frocks, browsed the shop and taken tea in the magnificent Pre-Raphaelite café try playing museum roulette. The junior CW’s and I like to randomly select a room on the V&A plan and then head off toward it, often we don’t actually get to our original destination because our attention is drawn by something we see on the way. Savage Beauty is open until August and I hope to visit many more times before it closes.
ALEXANDER McQUEEN: SAVAGE BEAUTY 14 March – 2 August 2015
Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7
Open daily 10am – 5.30pm (9.30pm on Friday)
Admission: Adults £16, Senior Citizens £15, Students £9, under 12s free