‘Star’ headpiece

  • In Memory of Elizabeth How, Salem 1692
  • Autumn/Winter 2007
  • Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen. Silver and Swarovski gemstones

This ‘Star’ headpiece, together with its companion, the ‘Moon’ headpiece, was made by Shaun Leane for a collection that fused elements of religious Puritanism and Paganism.

The inspiration behind the collection was Elizabeth How, a distant ancestor of McQueen’s who had been burned at the stake after having been declared guilty of practising witchcraft. The ominous subject matter was channelled via the collection’s predominantly dark aesthetic. For example, a tightly fitted maroon moulded leather bodice with face mask hinted at the oppression of religious freedoms and the punishments meted out by seventeenth-century Puritans in the New World. A striking contrast emerged in the same collection’s rich gold and blue designs; colours associated with the ancient Egyptian world. As symbols of Pagan worship, the ‘Star’ and Moon’ headpieces form part of this alternative aesthetic.

McQueen was fascinated by Victorian culture, and references derived from the nineteenth century are identifiable in almost all of the designer’s collections. Sometimes they were overt and related to nineteenth-century silhouettes or aspects of dress such as the frock coat or the bustle, other times they were more subtle. The ‘Star’ and ‘Moon’ headpieces allude to Victorian brooches. Although the headpieces have an historical quality, they also appear thoroughly contemporary and exemplify the classical McQueen conceit of combining tradition and modernity. Leane achieved this by integrating the form of the star and the crescent moon with the models’ heads so that they appeared to be part of, rather than merely attached to, the wearer. The fact that the star and moon shapes were rendered as half forms, rather than in their entirety, heightened this effect.

Both headpieces are made from silver sheet. In the case of the ‘Star’, the form was scored into the sheet before it was soldered down the seams. By contrast, the moon shape was achieved by forging the sheet into two domed crescents which were then soldered together. This technique lends a rounded quality which alludes to the moon’s association with fertility and contrasts with the sharper silhouette of the star. Whereas the ‘Star’ headpiece is inlaid with topaz Swarovski gemstones, the Cabochon Swarovski crystal used for the ‘Moon’ headpiece are claw set. Before setting them, Leane removed their foil backing to give them a softer quality reminiscent of moonstones.

Read more about Alexander McQueen’s collaboration with Swarovski