05 / 02

Alexander McQueen Unlocking Stories | The Ophelia Dress


This cream, corseted flower print silk taffeta Ophelia Dress began with Sarah Burton’s initial sketch of a corseted bodice, elbow-length poet sleeves, portrait neckline and a full, ballerina-length skirt with pleated volume at the hip.


One of the beginnings of the Ophelia dress was sparked by a rare Victorian silk wedding dress passed down through a Devon family. This tender memento of a long-ago country wedding made an imaginary link with the West Country women of Thomas Hardy’s novels. Traces of its emotional resonance became embedded in the print, while its fragile silk structure was minutely studied.



Still-life photographs were digitally superimposed over a digital scan of the Victorian wedding dress. To understand the complexity of the proportion of the print, it was rendered at full-size. The result — the ghostly ‘angel’ of Ophelia.




An archived dress with full, structured skirt, designed by Sarah Burton for her Goya-inspired Pre Autumn/Winter 2012 collection. At the fittings it was draped and staggered, folded and constructed in toile form. The exaggerated volume was placed at either side of the skirt, below the waist; a crucial decision which was taken to modernise the shape, lifting the Ophelia Dress free of literal Victorianna.



Waisted, corseted silhouettes are an Alexander McQueen signature. The development of this one took many steps, using original vintage cotton boned corsets to act as a basis. Experts in the atelier analysed the structures, and constructed several examples of boned toiles in white cotton.