Sarah Burton Talks ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’

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Photo courtesy of the Met

Alexander McQueen Sarabande dress, Spring/Summer 2007.

With just over two weeks until the opening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute exhibition “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” (not to mention the Met Gala, widely known as fashion’s biggest party of the year), McQueen mania is reaching a fever pitch.

The label’s creative director, Sarah Burton, talked to Vogue about some of the standout pieces in the show, from a gown inspired by her own wedding dress to the late, great McQueen’s sometimes bizarre range of influences.

A dress from McQueen’s Fall 2006 Widows of Culloden collection “was actually based on my wedding dress,” Burton said. “I got married two years earlier … this is the collection most people remember as the one with Kate Moss in a hologram. Oh, my God, it was so beautiful. He loved that show.”

Another dress, from the Spring 2001 Voss collection, was actually created with glass surgical slides layered like paillettes.

“So much of this show was about the collective madness of the world,” Burton said. “It was presented in a two-way mirrored glass box in London, and the girls had bandaged heads, acting like inmates of a mental asylum. Lee wanted the top of this dress to be made from surgical slides used for hospital specimens, which we found in a medical-supply shop on Wigmore St. Then we hand-painted them red, drilled holes in each one, and sewed them on so they looked like paillettes."

Yet another example of McQueen’s exquisite craftsmanship comes in a dress (above) from the Spring 2007 Sarabande collection that, at the time of the show, was covered in fresh flowers.

“We put them on just before [the model] went out, and they started to fall off one by one as she walked. I remember people saying Lee timed it. We had a laugh about that. It was an accident!”

“Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” opens May 4 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

For more pieces from “Savage Beauty,” including a straitjacket kimono and a chess-piece dress, visit

In related news, check out how models were morphed into mannequins for the exhibition’s catalog