The title of Alexander McQueen's show turned out to be something of a misnomer: although a tree loomed large over proceedings, these were by no means clothes for bough-scrambling tomboys. The show was divided into two distinct sections, opening with ostensible daywear and what equated by and large to the commercial core of the collection. This focussed around the trademark taut tailoring so many women rely on from McQueen and which will no doubt be expanded exponentially in the showroom. Rendered in an inky palette of predominantly black along with a wonderful oversized mohairy tartan, McQueen showed his classic waisted suits with a fin-de-siecle spin: cutaway coats, curved frock revers and high white collar and cuffs gave a Wildean air, one tailcoat even coming replete with green carnation. It was mere infinitesimal adjustments to the skinny cut and proportion that kept the look modern, and that is a mark of McQueen's skill.
If the dandy is the black prince of elegance, it's natural that McQueen should turn to princesses to inspire the latter section. He took us on a historical jaunt through the sadly bygone days of the Great British Empire, from the Hartnell heydays of Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth via the Edwardian Raj back to the pomp and circumstance of the Georgian court. Of course this comprised of the crowd-pleasing (and editorial-packing) flash and dazzle McQueen is known for, all couture-standard and all exquisite. Frogged Victorian velvets, lashing of ermine, silk-mousseline Empire-line gowns, lace, embroidery, indeed all the regalia of a reigning monarch past and present. As the models paraded slowly in jewel-encrusted slippers manipulating yards of tumbling train and jewelled headresses, it seemed a constant search for modernity. Of course it was there, in the jagged asymmetric hemlines, sliced militia jackets pieced into tulle, and a museum-quality pearl-and-glitter quilted bolero thrown over a slender jumpsuit with navy satin tuxedo-stripe. These were the elements that stood out as the future amongst the finery.