3 Standout Moments From Alexander McQueen's Return To LFW

It's all in the magic

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Is it time for us to take the edge off and soften up? At Alexander McQueen, tough black tailoring gave way to a stream of soft, hyper-feminine pink.  Fashion has always gravitated towards opposing ideas and no show captured the central theme running through autumn/winter 16 — that of darkness and lightness — than this one. In the show’s return to London Fashion Week, Sarah Burton explored the tension between the moody and gothic and romantic and feminine that’s been coursing its way from New York to London. Here are the key opposing forces from her fantastical show.

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1) The magical vs. IRL

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Sarah Burton era at McQueen is her broad reimagining of womanhood. At McQueen the possibilities of femininity are endless: she’s capable of being strong, vulnerable, delicate, aggressive, sinister and ethereal, sometimes all at once. She’s complicated. 

Here, she used the idea of a ‘magical sprite', a ‘tender spirit’ finding ‘lightness in the darkness’ as a jumping off point to explore a softer picture of femininity, as well as the age-old contrast between dream and reality.

That translated into fantastical embellishments and embroidery on sheer dresses and fairytale-like iconography on coats and jackets— think butterflies, moons (‘the archetypal symbol of womanhood’ according to Burton), and stars. Her translucent gowns painted in glittery constellations are essentially the clothes you fantasise about wearing but don't necessarily consider for real life. And maybe that's part of the magic; making us all stop for a moment to think about the woman we imagine ourselves being -- whether our dream uniform is a romantic, diaphanous dress or fiercely precise suit.

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2) Masculine vs. feminine

Man and woman. Man vs. woman. It’s that famous marriage of opposites, fashion’s favourite odd couple. Burton’s spin on masculinity and feminity for AW16 came via a juxtaposition of strong shouldered, mannish tailoring in wool and leather with soft, ethereal satin and chiffon dresses, some of which were worn with quilted puffer coats, literally the size of a twin bed duvet, embroidered with butterflies and flora. On paper, it all sounds quite girly and what modern woman wants to be that? But on the runway it looked cool and ageless, butterflies and all, right down to the feet where embroidered black creepers, brogues and velvet slippers grounded the looks. Speaking of shoes, platforms seem to be making a comeback, making one of many LFW appearances here. A palette of pink and black, which is turning out to be one of the season’s most popular colour stories, underscored the duality of it all.

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3) The polished vs. the undone

There’s a slightly undone quality we’re seeing in fashion this season. There’s the sense of clothing being so easy to wear, it could slip off your shoulders or limbs, as Burton’s delicately ruffled pink dresses and voluminous, quilted candy-floss-coloured duvet coats did as the models walked down the catwalk. Even the suit, that most polished of wardrobe pieces, gets the unaffected treatment here, with jackets styled over bralettes as if the McQueen woman is so relaxed and so unbuttoned that she skipped the shirt altogether. But it's not just in the clothes. See the models' bejewelled bed hair below. 

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So what does all of this mean? Underneath the gothic sensibility working its way through the shows this season, there's something uplifting about the strain of lightness that seems to be trailing behind it, like a silver lining hugging a cloud. As the fashion world moves ever faster towards a future of uncertainty— one that even plagues the house of McQueen in the wake of rumours about whether or not Sarah Burton will stay or move on to Dior — and as consumers wade their way through an overwhelming amount of choice, there's something intriguing about a pretty pink dress covered in frills. It's as if, despite it all, Burton is inviting us to simply lighten up. 

IMAGES: Daisy Walker

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