McQueen was intensely preoccupied with the details of tailored construction and was known to reference historic sources in his work.
While working at theatrical costumier Berman’s and Nathan’s, McQueen was tasked with making and remaking some of the coats and waistcoats based on Andreane Neofitou’s designs for the stage production of Les Misérables. To recreate the memorable costumes of nineteenth-century France, tailors worked from Neofitou’s costume sketches, period pattern books and current production stock. Several years later, McQueen studied Nora Waugh’s The Cut of Men’s Clothes 1600-1900. He used Waugh’s pattern for a man’s 1720s coat (taken from a coat in the V&A’s collections, Museum no. 658-1898) to create a frock coat for the actor Richard Harris in the film King of the Wind (1990). McQueen’s portfolio includes a film review along with the photocopied page from Waugh’s book.
The notable slashing technique of this jacket derives from sixteenth-century fashionable dress. However, McQueen exaggerated the original method to open up the sleeve around the elbow and upper arm. The result is a modern, articulated version of a centuries-old garment type.
The jacket’s bold wool and silk brocade textile mimics the rich woven brocades of sixteenth-century fabrics. Of further note is the label inside: a single lock of hair suspended within a clear plastic pocket. McQueen used these hair labels in some of his early collections including Banshee, Autumn/Winter 1994 and The Birds, Spring/Summer 1995. They suggested an eerie reprisal of the memento mori tradition of incorporating human hair into jewellery keepsakes. In a 1997 Time Out interview, McQueen said about their inclusion, ‘The inspiration behind the hair came from Victorian times when prostitutes would sell theirs for kits of hair locks, which were bought by people to give to their lovers. I used it as my signature label with locks of hair in Perspex. In the early collections, it was my own hair: it was about me giving myself to the collection’.