By Della Hasselle
UPPER EAST SIDE — A new exhibit paying tribute to famous designer Alexander McQueen, the designer whose line was responsible for Kate Middleton's critically acclaimed wedding dress, drew a star-studded array of fans to the gala preview at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Monday night.
"Savage Beauty," organized by New York's The Costume Institute, includes more than 100 ensembles and 70 accessories that explore the late designer's unique views on fashion as they relate to culture and politics from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Fashionistas from the New York and European fashion world and celebrity A-listers such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Rihanna gave a nod to McQueen by wearing his romantic frocks, while others like Fergie, Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson and Gwyneth Paltrow were in attendence.
Designers and fashionistas Stella McCartney, Anna Wintour, Vera Wang and Calvin Klein also walked the red carpet at Monday's gala, wearing an assortment of in designer dresses by Pucci, Gucci and Chanel Couture, among others.
Signature designs on view include the "bumster" trouser, the kimono jacket, and the three-point "origami" frock coat. McQueen's fashions frequently refer to exaggerated silhouettes of the 1860s, 1880s, 1890s, and 1950s, curators said.
Before his death in February 2010, McQueen explained his style inspirations as drawing from costumes, especially in the Victorian era.
"There's something ... kind of Edgar Allan Poe, kind of deep and kind of melancholic about my collections," McQueen said, according to a Met release. "People find my things sometimes aggressive. But I don't see it as aggressive. I see it as romantic, dealing with a dark side of personality."
Metropolitan Museum members invited to a preview of the exhibit Tuesday afternoon were blown away by the unique characteristics of McQueen's intricate and even grotesque designs as they wandered through the musuem's twisting sections.
The partitions of the exhibit wound from Romantic pieces with black cotton and leather jackets and dresses made with deep cuts, masks and horns to a Scottish room featuring plaid skirts, embroidered velvet bodices and petticoats. Other sections included gold bodices, flaring skirts made of wood, twine sleeves and feathered hats and dresses.
"I think it's just exquisite, and it's like going to a carnival," painter and Upper East Side resident Julia Regge, 77, said as she admired a dark red velvet costume that featured a lace-up bodice and lace detail.
"He's like a mad scientist, how he seems to cut women's images up and piece them together again," she added. "Some of it is very terrifying, like a fun house."
While the onlookers compared the intricacy of Middleton's dress design to the costume pieces in the exhibit, some of which also featured tool, lace, gold trim and beading, they agreed that the gown was inherently different from McQueen's theatrical designs.
"It was very simple and beautiful, not like a costume," Forest Hills resident Agnessa Kitaevich, 73, said.
Others lamented that the Royal Wedding dress wasn't theatrical enough, especially since it hailed from McQueen's designs.
"It's a shame Catherine didn't wear the bondage mask," Scotland resident and banker Alasdair Morton, 38, said. "McQueen's fashions are of high couture but they are also controversial. But I suppose you can't make a Royal Wedding dress controversial."