paris autumn winter 07 08

McQueen's Yellow Bird
by Timothy Hagy | photographed by Yannis Vlamos

March 2, 2007 - In the prologue to Tennessee Williams tale, The Yellow Bird, we learn that the heroine of the story, Alma, is descended from a long line of Puritans, her lineage dating back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Her great, great, great grandmother, Goody Tutwiller was at the center of a sensational trial in Salem at which several young ladies cried out against her. The evidence of Goody's witchcraft was so compelling, that even her husband, Reverend Increase Tutwiller, cried out against her in court. He swore under oath that he had seen a little yellow bird, visible only to himself, perching on his wife's shoulder and that this bird, named "Bobo", whispered indecencies concerning several young ladies of his congregation, as he was preaching one Sunday morning. The jury had heard all they needed. Goody Tutwiller was convicted and hanged, yet that little yellow bird would not go away.

Fast forward four hundred years, to a rainy night in Paris when Alexander McQueen unveiled his fall collection, inspired by a distant ancestor, Elizabeth How, who was convicted of witchcraft in Salem in 1692. A Ouija board runway was erected before a screen flashing images of crawling cockroaches, a naked woman writhing in pain, faces being burnt down to the skull.

The clothes were equally dramatic: a gold body suit fitted with breast plate, a flying suit sewn of layers of smoky tulle runched back to form a cape, a half moon silhouette cutting at the jugular, a mermaid gown crawling with fish scales, eyelets formed of breast cones, a transparent fishnet body suit lapping at the ankles.

That pesky avian distraction, Bobo, flew right into the room, perching on a rafter high above the catwalk, and visible only to select editors, began to whisper indecencies concerning the McQueen collection. These journalists were so moved that they began to cry out, much as did their ancestors, all those centuries ago.


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