Body Dressing “Desire and Dread: Alexander McQueen and the Contemporary Femme Fatale

In the chapter the genre of McQueens designs are explored. In the beginning of Alexander Mcqueen’s career it is clearly identified that he was very passionate about displaying a combination of “beauty and violence, sabotage and tradition” which many have thought to be disturbing. Most of his designs, in the beginning of his career, were centered around the tragedies and cruelties in which women had to endure.  For example in his first graduate show of March 1993, his models were styled to look bruised and battered inspired by the movie Taxi Driver, his fourth The Birds in 1995 show his models were streaked in oily tire marks over their bodies and jackets to make it seem as if they were run over as an idea based around road kill, and his 1996 collection La Poupee’ which showed the black model Debra Shaw walking attached to a metal square shaped contraption connected to her ankle and wrists symbolizing a walking puppet or doll based on Han Bellmer’s dolls of the 1930’s. All of these collections, to many, were believed to represent the misogyny in McQueens character, but what his early collections really represented was Alexander McQueen’s acknowledgement of the fact that women are always taken advantage of and mistreated by men of society without reason. The Women in his eyes were an object of fear and the bruises, tire marks, and blood depicted on the outside of the models symbolize the mental and physical abuse women have gone through in a society, where women’s sexuality is seen as perverse and deathly at the approach of their freedom at the turn of the century. At the turn of the century Alexander McQueen no longer depicted women as weak and naïve but as strong and powerful. In McQueen’s Dante collection which captured the womens sexuality as dangerous, especially towards men whose male desires would be “tinged of dread”  his models were seen in military embroidery , hausers jackets lace dresses with headpieces extending over the face like a “hangmans hood” representing desire and dread to personify the female sexuality as being so powerfully sexual that it is nearly deathly to point that no one would want to lay a hand on her, she used her sexuality as a sword of protection. This idea of women (the prey now becoming the predator) using their sexuality as a sword rather than shield is better by in Marquis De Sade, a famous writer, poet, aristocrat, philosopher, politician of the late 17th early 18th century, who wrote about great liberating women who were cruel as they used their sexuality as an act of revenge or protection, they were almost inhuman because of their display of power in their actions as an act of vengeance against a world who condemned women to live freely and independent (a free women in society is like a monster).  Like Sade, McQueen was also fascinated with the relationship between “victim and aggressor” but mainly the aggressor. As an example of the aggressiveness that both Sade and McQueen expressed the power of women being so terrifying that it gives them a sense of masculinity as well, also identified in Alexander McQueens Givenchy collection in March 1997 which featured very tall models walking down the runway wearing long coats and “micro-minis”  looking like “super women” resembling Sade’s aggressors. Discuss Sade’s influence of todays society. The symbolism of a women whose character can also be seen as strong and powerful is shown in heroic movies in todays society. For example, in the Movie and book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) is a heroin of our time embodying a character who faces nothing but cruelty and abuse by men because of her sexuality, but she is also a very strong and intelligent character who knows how to protect and be vengeful to those to have caused her harm. As said in the New York times article by A.O. Scott “She is a marvelous pop-culture character, stranger and more complex than the average superhero and more intriguing than the usual boy wizards and vampire brides”. Her guardian in the movie is her main oppressor, forcing her to please his sexual needs in exchange for her supply of money, he takes his action to far and in response she becomes the oppressor raping him as he did her as well as black mailing him so that he will never lay a hand on her again.


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