Alexander McQueen, born 1969 – died 2010
Asymmetrical dress made of black and white “tweed-woven” rayon. The bodice is off the shoulders and sleeveless. The waist is gathered on an elastic band. The skirt flares on one side only and is longer and pointed at the back.
Length: 130 cm, Width: 89 cm
also called the “Raffia Dress”
Historical significance: An interpretation of Balenciaga‘s geometrical cut. Interesting new version of British traditional tweed. This dress is also called the “Raffia Dress” because of the physical aspect of the fabric.
By deconstructing the dress’s traditional silhouette Alexander McQueen challenges tradition. Here McQueen employs a sculptural shape that while exquisitely constructed, emphasises a disconcerting asymmetry. Thus in McQueen’s hands the dress has moved well beyond a conventional interpretation of a wardrobe staple. McQueen graduated from Central St. Martin’s School of Art in 1992, before launching his own label in 1994. He has developed a reputation for imaginative, bold design, which is combined with an in-depth knowledge of tailoring, owing to the training he received at the Savile Row tailor Anderson & Sheppard.
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Charles James, born 1906 – died 1978
Miss Baba Beaton wore this dress when she married Mr Alec Hambro on 6 November 1934. It is an early example of the work of the designer Charles James. It anticipates later developments in his style, particularly his approach to complex cut. The beauty of the design lies in its deceptive simplicity and the designer’s complete understanding of the potential of the fabric.
Darts and seams shape the smooth ivory satin, which clings and drapes around the body in order to enhance the graceful figure. James said, ‘all my seams have meaning – they emphasise something about the body’.
Circumference: 66 cm waist, Circumference: 84 cm bust, Circumference: 68 cm diaphragm, Length: 150 cm overall, Length: 40 cm to waist, Width: 40 cm centre back, Width: 42 cm shoulder to shoulder, Length: 62 cm sleeve, over, Length: 52 cm sleeve, under, Circumference: 80 cm hips, Circumference: 18 cm wrist
Silk satin, trimmed with wax orange-blossom, cut on the bias
Although he was born in Britain, James worked as a milliner and custom dressmaker in New York between 1924 and 1929. In 1929 he opened premises in London. During the early 1930s he travelled extensively between London and Paris, establishing a Paris branch in 1934. Like Elsa Schiaparelli he was a friend of the Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí and made use of Surrealist influences in his designs.
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Antony Price, born 1945
Closely swathing the figure, the silk taffeta of this dramatically structured garment is formed into large, irregular gathers diagonally positioned across the front. These culminate in an asymmetrical bodice, with an extraordinary, gravity defying shoulder extension. Designer Antony Price called this his ‘Bird’s Wing’ dress; the rigid folds of fabric with their feathered and serrated edge evoke associations of flight and movement. It was designed for his 1986 Winter collection.
The simple, white taffeta, with its glossy, reflective sheen offsets the complex structure of the garment. The designer’s choice of a stiff fabric allows the raised folds to retain their shape and make the dress virtually self-supporting. The folds are held in place by large, self-covered buttons which secure the dress at the side, and also provide an important visual motif. In contrast the back is quite plain, a simple bodice with a single shoulder strap and a straight, skirt fitted with darts into the waist seam.
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Seashell Dress, 1988
John Galliano, born 1960
John Galliano is celebrated for his ingenious approach to dress design. Evoking the crisp and sculptural qualities of scallop shells, this dress has a circular petal skirt composed of concentric rows of overlapping and meandering bands of bias-cut organdie. The strapless, boned bodice is relieved by a deep cummerbund of checked cotton.
White organdie strapless dress with a flared asymmetrical skirt. Accessorised with a green and white checked cotton sash. Bias cut organdie with boned bodice.
Materials and Techniques
Bias cut organdie with a boned bodice and cotton sash
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(French, born Pau, 1923)
Travis Banton (American, 1894–1958)
Dimensions: Length at CB: 88 in. (223.5 cm)
Pierre Cardin (French, born San Biagio di Callalta, Italy, 1922)
Date: ca. 1959
Dimensions: Length at CB: 33 1/2 in. (85.1 cm)
Issey Miyake (Japanese, born 1938)
Design House: Miyake Design Studio (Japanese)
Date: ca. 1991
Dimensions: Length at CF: 31 in. (78.7 cm)