McQueen’s SS05 Carousel Dress

This whimsical carousel dress first appeared in Alexander McQueen’s Spring 2005 runway show “It’s Only A Game” as look #32. During the first portion of this show the thirty-six models formed lines after walking. During the second portion a chess board projection on the stage aligned with their placement, creating a game of fashion chess, with the models as game pieces. Prompted by an electronic voice, the models then switched places “capturing” other models who would then exit the stage. The chessboard motif allowed McQueen to explore different types of women — Americans face Japanese on the board, redheads are placed opposite Latin Americans and so forth. 

McQueen SS05

Isabella Blow once said “What attracted me to Alexander was the way he takes ideas from the past and sabotages them with his cut to make them thoroughly new and in the context of today”. This show was a prime example of that wonderful ability. This unique carousel dress could seamlessly fit into both the Victorian era or 1950’s fashion.

V&A Museum curators describe the dress as “Constructed from a pale golden stretch net with six appliqué silk chiffon horses trailing the skirt. The candy-stripe red and gold carousel poles twist around the body, covering the seams. One emerges between the bust and goes over the right shoulder, the left strap twists to the centre back and continues twisting down the body – cleverly covering the zip fastening. An internal bra is built in to the body with its own zip back, and 7 plastic bones creating structure. The dress has two layers of net and a layer of organza over a satin slip.

The skirt is light at the front, with more fabric creating fullness and length at the back.The horses are a mix of hand and machine embroidery, applied with small sequin mirrors and gold braid.” I saw this dress in person at the V&A Museum recently, and the detail work is extraordinary. It is a piece that radiates a combination of child-like fun and elegance. I’ve always believed great fashion evokes emotion in its viewers, and this dress prompted a smile on nearly every person who stopped to admire it.