How Alexander McQueen Turned Vintage Corsets Into Engineered Prints for Spring 2021

How Alexander McQueen Turned Vintage Corsets Into Engineered Prints for Spring 2021

Corsets have long been an Alexander McQueen signature, which the house's founder reinterpreted in fantastical and subversive ways. The "spine corset" from the brand's rain-filled Spring 1998 show exemplified this the best, where models wore vertebrae-inspired looks that took its forms from human skeletons.

It was also one of the focal points of Sarah Burton's Spring 2021 collection for the brand, which in lieu of a runway was presented via a gloomy short film of models hanging out by the Thames River. Burton's mantra this season was to strip everything down to their bare bones and emphasize the construction and details you don't often get to see on the surface.

Burton's corsets formed the foundation of deconstructed mid-20th century line dresses with exploded asymmetric skirts and gave shape to soft knitwear in colors like ivory and tea rose. An engineered tulle toile print featuring corsetry appears on the skirts of more dresses, and a corset is also featured as a black trompe l'oeil print on a classic white t-shirt.

Below, Alexander McQueen gave PAPER an inside look at the making of Spring 2021's corsetry-inspired pieces, which the team incorporated in everything from deconstructed dresses and knitwear to leather and printed fabric.

The exact corset featured here has been used as an unseen underpinning for many years in past collections. But with this season's focus on stripping things down to their essence, it has now been brought to the forefront.

The corsetry weaved into this pale pink knitwear gives structure to an otherwise soft silhouette. There's also corset details in the white cotton topstitch contrast detailing on a black leather dress.

Vintage and archive Alexander McQueen tulle boned corsets are digitally scanned flat into an engineered tulle toile print seen on a variety of tea dresses.

The colors explored during print trials are decided upon beforehand and digitally printed before being engineered on to the skirt.

The corset paper artwork is then cut and placed onto the bodice during the fitting process to trial the print engineering.

Once the placement is decided upon, the team uses a 3D mini paper doll to finalize it before the fabric is actually printed.

The bodice is also made life-size in paper to ensure the placement is correct given the complexity of the design.

The final result.

Photos courtesy of Alexander McQueen