It takes a showman like Alexander McQueen to get the lifeblood pumping back into fashion performance. His show—staged in the Salle Wagram, a nineteenth-century Parisian dance hall—was an exuberantly hilarious reenactment of Sydney Pollack's Depression-era film They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Choreographed by Michael Clark over two weeks of intensive rehearsals in London, the narrative involved dancers, models, and audience in a visceral celebration of exquisitely glamorous clothes.

In the opening scene, the girls entered—dancing for all they were worth on the arms of muscle-bound sailors and hunky hopefuls—dressed in fishtailed silver lamé, figure-hugging cha-cha dresses, and show-stopping gowns with spangled bodices and huge feathered skirts. Other competitors whirled on wearing pink corseted tulle tutus over gray ballet sweats; mint satin tap-suits; or a slinky confection of gray checkerboard chiffon. A Billie Holiday look-alike, dramatically vamping in pink charmeuse and ostrich, vied for attention as flashy bodysuited showgirls were energetically twirled aloft by their partners.

McQueen's signatures—elaborately pieced tailoring (now beautifully softened with delicate inserts of lingerie) and body-hugging denims spliced onto nude tulle—also did star turns. The pace picked up even further in the elimination race, in which morphed-together fluorescent chiffons and sports pieces ran hell-for-leather (on impossibly high heels) in a hotly contested dash around the room.

There was even an opening for daywear. Blue-collar marathon survivors staggered out wearing plaid shirts, coats, and skirts made from quilts and recycled patchworks of shirting material, all crafted to the McQueen sex-bomb template. The show reached its climax as a lone exhausted dancer in a silver sequined gown mock-expired center stage. As she was carried off by the designer and his choreographer, thunderous applause rocked the hall.