This black embroidered trouser suit subverts the male formalwear tradition of the Morning Suit with the elaborate female Victorian tradition of Mourning Dress.
Lee Alexander McQueen shook the fashion world — twice — with the dark theme and unforgettable atmosphere of his seventh collection, Dante, for Autumn/Winter 1996. It was first shown by candlelight at Christ Church, Spitalfields in London on March 4th 1996, and then a month later at an abandoned synagogue on Norfolk Street in New York.
A cry against wars of religion through the ages, the collection cemented his reputation as a master of cutting and fashion performance, making magnificent show-pieces and razor-sharp tailoring.
The ‘mourning purple’ silk corset has a tiny waist and a huge upstanding collar which first appeared when worn by Honor Fraser as she walked along the central aisle of the Spitalfields church in the Dante show in 1996. Its embroidered elements were referenced and encrusted into the Mourning Suit.
The A-line dress with chevron cut-outs at the breast from the Dante collection was studied for its flocked paisley pattern.
Black beaded, puffed sleeved and ruffled Victorian jackets and ‘memento mori’ jewellery were all part of the large nineteenth-century industry surrounding funerals and mourning. Original vintage pieces from this genre, taken from the Alexander McQueen reference archive, were used to develop the idea of the bustle-shaped jacket.
Alexander McQueen jackets from recent collections were cut and collaged in a deconstruction and reconstruction process which created a new, romantic masculine/feminine silhouette with peaked shoulders and a nipped-in waist.
It was important to honour the core tailoring tradition which Lee McQueen brought to the house from his time as an apprentice on Savile Row. In the back of the jacket and its waistband — a reference to a tailor’s Stockman dummy — raw hessian fabric was patched in to strike a contrast with its decorative surfaces.