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Desire and Dread: Alexander McQueen and the Contemporary Femme Fatale

I was a fan of Alexander McQueen designs from the first moment I laid eyes on his collection. I always had the sense from his clothing that he knew women. He seemed to know how a women wanted to feel and be seen. He understood the need for control and beauty. His collections were suppose to make people feel a little uncomfortable because to him, life was uncomfortable. He knew there was beauty in life but he also understood that there was pain, anger, and death. Throughout his career he pushed to show the world what they didn’t want to see. “Alexander McQueen’s debut was a horror show…McQueen, who is 24 and from London’s East End, has a view that speaks of battered women, of violent lives, of grinding daily existences offset by wild, drug-enhanced nocturnal dives into clubs where the dress-code is semi-naked. (Hume1993)

Highland Rape Collection March 1995

Highland Rape Collection March 1995

McQueen defended his shocking collection by stated that it was inspired not by the raping of women but of Jacobite Rebellion. The women represented Scotland and the brutality that was placed upon the people and country by England. Even as the women walked the runway with shredded clothes and exposed body parts, their eyes gleamed with metallic contact lens. Their eye make-up was strong and demon-like. They may have been ravished and beaten but they were still alive and fierce.

“Allying glamour with fear rather than allure,McQueen’s avowed intent was to create a woman ‘who looks so fabulous you wouldn’t dare lay a hand on her’, a statement which is illuminated by the knowledge that one of his sisters had been the victim of domestic violence(Hume 1996).
McQueen created an army of beautiful, sexy and absolutely terrifying women in his collections. He understood the power behind a female form, a power that could not be taken away by violence, religion or even death. “McQueen’s runway suggested a world without men, not because men were absent from it (for they were not), but because it was a world in which gender was unsettled by women who were both hyperfeminine and yet, in some respects, terrifyingly male.”(Evans)

“I design clothes because I don’t want women to all innocent and naive, because I know what can happen to them. I want women to look stronger.”
-Alexander McQueen

“I don’t like women to be taken advantage of. I disagree with that most of all. I don’t like men whistling at women in the street, I think they deserve more respect.”
-Alexander McQueen

” I like men to keep their distance from women, I like men to be stunned by an entrance.” – Alexander McQueen

” I’ve seen a woman get nearly beaten to death by her husband. I know what misogyny is…I want people to be afraid of the women I dress.”
– Alexander McQueen

By 1997 McQueen models no longer were tattered, bruised and hollow women, they were strong and dangerous. They were the type of women men feared and adored at the same time, they were femme fatales. “…the characteristics of McQueens femme fatale, a figure who suggested the terrifying power of women rather then their soft vulnerability.”( Evans)

The author of this chapter,Caroline Evans, tried to make a connection between Alexander McQueen and the Marquis de Sade but I had trouble following it. I feel as though the only connection between the two would be the extreme hatred they would have for each other. The Marquis de Sade abused and degraded women to point of torture, whereas Alexander McQueen strive to empower women to point of fearlessness. His clothing was a symbol of abuse women had endured and the power that were capable of possessing. I guess it is safe to make the connection that without monsters like the Marquis de Sade there would be no reason for women to yield a shield of power and fear against the world. Alexander McQueen would have no basis for his collections without men such as Marquis de Sade.

Marquis de Sade


About bemusedandbewildered

I'm a thirty year old woman who has not only found herself once again back at school but has found herself in a fashion class...

One response to “Desire and Dread: Alexander McQueen and the Contemporary Femme Fatale

  1. Prof Lung ⋅

    interesting final thought – I wonder if they would have hated each other ? it would be interesting to imagine a collaboration between the two.

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