Tippi Hedren and Marilyn Monroe. Biker molls and sweater girls. You got it: Alexander McQueen went to the sixties, all the way, for fall. With its filched movie and rock 'n' roll themes, the collection read as a knowing vehicle, a McQueen director's cut. Glacially restrained tailoring, early rocker chic, the classic Hollywood ball gown moment: He had 'em all. Plus great hair, great music, and a roar of old-school glamour.
But there's no such thing as a McQueen routine without a sinister psychological subtext or two. Was there a hint in the invitationa pastiche of the film poster for Vertigo, superimposed with the title of another Hitchcock movie, The Man Who Knew Too Much? What McQueen knows shows aplenty. His combined knowledge of Savile Row tailoring and Parisian couture means he can scissor an impeccably narrow gray tweed coat or a nipped-waist pencil skirtsuit, and put sizzle into period sobriety. The same goes for his showstopper Charles James-meets-Marilyn evening gowns, with their strapless sculpted fishtails and "Happy birthday, Mr. President" spangles.
But there's an underlying strain in all this knowingness, too. At a time when fashion demands commercial reality, theatrics alone can't carry a show. McQueen, perhaps with a weary sense of show 'em what they want, also put out a lot (Navajo blankets, tasseled suede circa The Misfits), which turned parts of the presentation into a merchandise run-through of dubious taste. A cynical trotting out of an overextended theme isn't what the fashion world expects of Alexander McQueen. We know; he knows: He's bigger than that. So was that why, to the sounds of Elvis echoing through the hall, he left the building without comment?