McQueen and Feminism

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Relations of feminism and fashion were not always simple, but they had a place to be. Starting with Emilia Blumer, who was one of the first women to wear trousers, and suffragist women of the early 20th century, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, who popularised the glossy image of a strong and independent woman, and ending with the main feminist from fashion Gabrielle Chanel True, the emancipe of the 1920s has been replaced by a new beauty ideal promoted by Hollywood: seductive ultra-feminity, not covered by the talk of gender equality. The American picture of the female well-being of the 1950s sample gradually came to the fore: a woman holding a house and children, trying to become as beautiful and sexier as possible for her inability to compete with a man on a professional field while waiting for her husband from work. Over time, feminism turned from an engine of change in fashion into a historical period or an idea which inspires designers. Invented then, flying on the crest of feminism of the second wave as a manifesto to the world, as the liberation of women and a demonstration of struggle, is used in our time to create an original silhouette and emphasise its tolerant attitude. Just as feminism once stirred up the world, Alexander McQueen also shook him not so long ago. For his sincere love of shocking and provocations on the catwalk, he received from journalists a scathing description — the l’enfant terrible (fr. — terrible child) of English fashion. This label turned out to be prophetic — McQueen really remained a child in many respects, who plunged into the world of fashion with genuine sincerity and passion, but could not hold out for long in this abyss …
Second wave of feminism came in the 1960s. Perhaps the most famous feminist action of 1968, timed to coincide with the Miss America contest, during which activists defiantly threw bras together with Playboy magazines, was once again emphasised as the dominant pop culture created by men for men, pushes women’s bodies into frames through the fashion and beauty industry. Against the background of the third wave of feminism, which is called “feminism of differences,” the woman was finally given control of her own body and appearance, which was now limited to only her own imagination. In the 1970s and 1980s, the idea of being sexy and beautiful for your own pleasure, and not for men, became the very point where fashion and feminism found an intersection: remember though power women and the most popular silhouette in those years “inverted triangle”. But let’s look at the feminism of the second wave and its relationship with fashion in more detail because in fact, it was the second wave that played the greatest role in its development. In a relatively short period, about 20 years long, the female image changes dramatically, become less feminine in the traditional sense, women begin to wear men’s things, change their position in society from passive to active and more and more go out from under male hegemony. All this was mainly a consequence of the war period, when most of the male population went to war and women had to perform the work that men used to perform, which also resulted in changes in traditional dress in the direction of more masculine versions, and the similarity of an hourglass, later this tendency will grow into the well-known so-called “power suit”, which most vividly illustrates the mood of women at that time to be as close as possible to men for a forced reason. Indeed, at that time, prejudices were much more pronounced than now, and the woman who looked like a woman was not taken very seriously at that time. Later, more well-known and more familiar to modern human innovations, still widely used by women around the globe.


For example, miniskirts are a controversial moment in the clothes of the second wave of feminism, but after this model appeared as a serious trend of the 60s, they were immediately considered liberating. In 1966, designer Mary Quant made a huge contribution to their popularisation by selling an emancipatory novelty for Bazaar. After that, mini-skirts were recognised as practical and comfortable for women who had previously worn clothes, restraining movement, and all for reasons of modesty. Many feminists considered such skirts to be an important step towards revealing femininity, which would once and for all supplant the problem of body sharing and help uncover true sexuality. Miniskirts are a kind of rebellion against clothes that hide the naturalness of the female body for reasons of practicality and decency. The debate between the ideas of objectification and liberation lasted for many years, but mini is still popular, reminding us that even though we can emphasise female sexuality, there is still no way for complete freedom and equality to the end. Also, in this list, you can include a men’s blazer, which entered women’s fashion completely painlessly and is one of the main elements of the wardrobe of a modern woman. Feminists began to wear a men’s blazer as a protest gender stereotypes that are reinforced by clothing. Struggling for personal rights and professional freedoms, feminists have abandoned a style that can be provocative or seductive. Thus, women wore large-sized pants and men’s blazers on a par with the opposite sex, to emphasise that they can share one field of activity with men. The story includes such a thing as “manly”, taken very seriously not only by women. Historically, visual symbols in clothes are very strongly associated with the role of the sexes. The traditional style of the housewife deprived women of their personality and freedom, and provocative and free design was a sign of frivolity. To show men serious intentions in the matter of equality, feminists decided to avoid clothes that demarcate women, dividing them into domestic and sexual, and add elements of men’s suits to women’s fashion. And of course, do not forget about one of the most well-known to a wide range of moments, the rejection of bras in the second wave of feminism. Some say that feminists burned bras along with straps, false eyelashes, and replays of Playboy and Cosmopolitan in 1968. However, Robin Morgan, the organiser of the feminist protest of those times, states that all this is just a media myth. Although the feminists refused to wear bras, they did not burn them defiantly. Bras, like high heels, were considered as elements of enslaving women. Feminists fought for women’s comfort despite feminine fashion. Today, the rejection of bras speaks for itself. The lack of a bra has become popular not only for feminist reasons but also because many modern tops look much better without underwear. In addition, no matter how beautiful the lingerie is today, there is undeniable evidence that it is terribly inconvenient.
But enough about feminism, let’s talk about the youngest of six children, Lee Alexander McQueen, who was born on March 16, 1969 in the family of a taxi driver and a teacher in one of the working suburbs of London. While still a teenager, Lee McQueen dreamed of mastering a creative specialty related to art, but his parents sent him to a school for boys, where he drew sketches of women’s dresses during his free time from lessons. McQueen dropped out of school at 16 because he wanted to go to his dream. The future designer’s mother, Joyce McQueen, then decided her son’s fate: one evening she heard on TV about a set of tailors in one of the studios at Savile Row. Lee McQueen turned up serious work — Mikhail Gorbachev and Prince Charles were his studio’s clients — but he did not give up his school hooligan habits: once he made an eloquent patch “I’m cunt” on one of Prince Charles’s jacket. On Savile Row, McQueen mastered several methods of complex cut, sewed theatrical costumes according to original sketches of the 16th century, and then he worked as an apprentice for the Japanese designer Koshi Tatsuno and the Italian fashion designer Romeo Gigli. A young and ambitious Englishman studied at the junction of two fashionable poles of the West and the East, takes the best from them and develops his principle: creative execution in an elegant form. Alexander McQueen in the first place was always a workaholic, in the second — a provocateur. He made his first dress at the age of 16 and since then has not stopped anymore. At the age of 25, he entered the London College of Central St. Martins pulled out his regular lucky ticket: his graduation collection was noticed by Isabella Blow (Wilcox, 2015), a shocking icon of British fashion style and editor of Vogue and Tatler magazines. Blow became his friend, comrade-in-arms and a pass to the cruel and beautiful world of fashion. In 1994, Alexander McQueen was named the most original young talent — now he could be openly bullied in public. He released a collection called «Highland Rape» and brought out models in bloodied bandages, and the next collection dedicated to starving Africa and pasted over dresses with dead locust. Each of his exit to the podium he spiced up with scathing statements. «I think religion has caused every war in the world, which is why I showed in a church.,» said McQueen and made a fashion show in the church (Ahmed,2018). In 1996, he received his first Designer of the Year award and an offer he could not refuse — to lead the Givenchy brand instead of John Galliano. By trial and error at the helm of Givenchy, McQueen came again … to shocking. McQueen led a handicapped model to the podium with both legs amputated, or completely refused models and replaced them with spinning mannequins. It was during this period that McQueen released the SS1998 “Golden Shower” collection, later renamed “Untitled” due to sexual overtones and dissatisfaction of sponsors.
In this collection, the influence of the trends of the 60s, their development is clearly traced. It can be assumed that the collection released by him at the end of the 90s has such a pronounced feminist overtone due to the third wave that was passing around the world at that time, especially pointed at sexuality and gender differences, so it is quite possible that innocent in such a way caused a resonance in wide sections of society. Not for the first time, McQueen shows on the catwalk models, most of which are dressed in things that were traditionally considered masculine at the beginning of the last century. This time the designer dressed models in a variety of styles blazers, with elongated lapels and collars, covered them with prints. It is easy to trace the similarity with the silhouette with a constricted waist in the second quarter of the 20th century. Also, mainly used is the fabric from which men’s suits are usually sewn, even if it is covered with a print. The next moment, borrowed from the distant 60s, can be called wide trousers with arrows, appearing at this show quite often. Also, it is impossible not to mention the lack of bras on most models that have already become traditional by this time, in fact, demonstrating the freedom and comfort of the models. But McQueen would not be McQueen if he had not shocked the public with something on his show, this time this category includes tops made of almost transparent fabric, a dress with a front part made of thin intersecting ribbons that barely cover the body, even smaller the size of a mini-skirt from very thin ribbons and the like of a dress, which comes down from the neck, made using the same technique. It is impossible not to notice provocative makeup on the models, there is an association with predators that have gone hunting over their territory, which certainly adds confidence, the more interesting it is to watch the rain starting at the end of the show and the mascara begins to flow over the faces of the models, while white outfits become wet fit around the bodies on the catwalk.
What conclusion can be drawn from this? No matter how great a designer is, it is very difficult to come up with something completely new in the modern world, and sometimes you have to turn to history to find inspiration for your creations, as Alexander McQueen, the recognised genius of our time, sometimes did, and you can see from his example the very border, observing that you can become a genius in the eyes of contemporaries, but if you cross it, the only thing that can be said about the designer is that he tried to imitate outstanding personalities of a bygone era.