"They go into shops at the same time," said Sarah Burton, to explain her canny alignment of McQueen's huge (250-piece) pre-fall collection for women with the men's collection she showed in Milan the other day. So you could find the same hints of regimental dressing, the same military touches. Well, "hints" is misleading, because the overwhelming impression was anything but understated. A navy officer's coat swagged with gold? Sailor pants reconfigured as a dress through the magic of trompe l'oeil? A slender pantsuit of navy felt trimmed with red, which switched the gender of Manet's immortal Drummer Boy? They were merely the beginning. Burton pointed to some decorative elements on lapels and necklines and said they'd been inspired by the Order of the Garter, one of the highest honors that British royalty can bestow. But her version had the extravagant exuberance of Louis XIV and the Sun King's court.
The designer also said she was getting more comfortable with working on the stand, like McQueen himself used to, and one bias-cut beauty—maybe it started life as an officer's coat, but it had been dissected and draped diagonally across the body, with a bodice of crusted crystal and gold beading attached—was all it took to prove Burton right.
At a pinch, that outfit, with its vague roots in something uniform, would probably fit with Burton's insistence that she was attempting "to make luxury in an austere way." That aim was also why she emphasized the uniform silhouettes of a group of pieces in the hottest, pop-est red and pink. But austerity was frankly doomed when there were opulent jacquards to match, and a pink fox chubby to throw over the whole lot. And Burton was clearly as comfortable with such indulgences as she was with the literally weightier elements in the McQueen collection. Meanwhile, the girl—or at least one of her dresses—made it to the White House, when Michelle Obama wore McQueen to the State Dinner. That's one thing that might take a little more getting used to.