Knickers


by Alexander McQueen

by Penny Martin .

The silver, sequinned ribbon and bow motif that encircles the knickers thus appearing to slither around the hip, seemingly unsupported by fabric, its subtle lustre recalls the longing for Hollywood glamour felt by women whose lives were becoming increasingly filled with the mundanity of work.

Intention is so often different from meaning in fashion, especially when it comes to detailing. These knickers, for instance, derive from Alexander McQueen's Spring/Summer 2004 Deliverance collection; a show drawing heavily on Depression-era America in its pastiche of the key sequences from They Shoot Horses Don't They?. The film's gruelling (and often fatal) dance marathons and hysterical derby scenes were all played out in exquisite detail by an all-star model and contemporary dance cast at the fashion week performance, squaring perfectly with the enduring themes of decay and descent into madness characterising McQueen's collections.

Likewise, the 1930s historical references in this sheer undergarment are all present and correct. Well, nearly. The brevity of the briefs - a departure from looser, longer knickers worn in the 1920s - references the reducing size of swimwear and lingerie during the decade. The transparency of the black chiffon documents the introduction of new fabrics nylon and rayon and the delicious appearance of flesh and nudity they could affect. The silver, sequinned ribbon and bow motif that encircles the knickers thus appearing to slither around the hip, seemingly unsupported by fabric (with a little imagination and squinting of eye). Its trompe l'oeil effect also reinforces the dating, recalling Elsa Schiaparelli's Surrealist, bow-designed knits, whilst its subtle lustre recalls the longing for Hollywood glamour felt by women whose lives were becoming increasingly filled with the mundanity of work.

To follow this empirical loyalty to fashion history to its logical conclusion, we would expect A-line knickers to match the Vionnet-inspired bias cutting that was so crucial to McQueen's collection-defining gowns. However, these knickers hug the hips, their elasticated edges clinging under the buttocks like little shorts. Such details push the knickers forward a decade, to the chorus lines of Busby Berkley movies and an era that was far more promising for the American working class that narrowly avoided dancing themselves to death ten years previously. Moreover, the 'boy-short' shape mirrors a contemporary shift as today's knicker market moves from string to the low-rise short shape in preference. Intended as historicism by their maker but actually signifying revisionism, therefore, McQueen's knickers are a case study of sophisticated appropriation.

Sequinned mesh knickers by Alexander McQueen at Alexander McQueen +4420 7355 0088