You Should Be Watching: The Macabre

For October, I’ve selected a group of slightly sinister documentaries and videos, each focusing on some of fashion’s darker influences. The first two films recount the lives of fashion deviants who produced spectacular garments which at times were also quite disturbing. While the third group of videos focus on a highly influential style that was rooted in rebellion and destruction. As fashion visionary Rei Kawakubo perfectly stated, “For something to be beautiful it doesn’t have to be pretty.”

The Legend of Leigh Bowery (2002)
Image from Leigh Bowery Looks: Photographs by Ferguson Greer 1988-1994

The provocative exploits of artist-musician-fashion designer-performer Leigh Bowery are retold in this 2002 documentary. Interviews with family members, discussions with museum curators, and a large amount of archival footage are expertly combined, illustrating Bowery’s humble beginnings in Australia and his meteoric rise to underground avant-garde fashion legend.

Falling outside of the traditional fashion milieu, Bowery’s costumes are dark, glamorous, and inspiring. Bowery did not design with commercial success in mind. Instead, Bowery’s extravagant fashion creations were a true artistic expression.

While many of the works portrayed in the film are very powerful, a deeper understanding of Bowery’s work would have been possible if placed in context with popular fashion, art, and music of the time. In addition, investigation into Bowery’s influence and legacy would have completed the film.

The Legend of Leigh Bowery is available on DVD through Netflix.

McQueen and I (2011)
Image from Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Produced for Channel 4 UK, McQueen and I traces Alexander McQueen’s rapid rise from fashion school student to one of the most influential and eccentric voices in the fashion industry.

McQueen and I explores the tumultuous relationship McQueen had with patron and muse Isabella Blow. Recent interviews with family members, archival footage of Blow and McQueen, and early McQueen fashion shows are seamlessly woven together, telling the dark story of two fashion innovators and the untimely death of both by suicide.

McQueen and I provides a valuable and rare look at the story behind the now fabled fashion designer.  As well as providing an insightful look into the life and influence of Isabella Blow. Stunning video of McQueen fashion shows, including his work at Givenchy and Gucci, are used throughout the film.

McQueen and I is a poignant documentary and a particularly important view for the twentieth century fashion historian.

View the full McQueen and I video on YouTube.

Punk: Chaos to Couture Exhibition Video Resources
Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Did you miss the Punk: Chaos to Couture spectacle this past summer at the Met? Wish you could have visited a second time for a closer investigation? If so, below is a useful collection of audio and video features available online.

 Punk Gallery Views
This is a fast paced visual tour of the exhibition narrated by curator Andrew Bolton. The concise video highlights ensembles and installation details that could have been easily overlooked. Excellent close-up images and gallery views are provided throughout the video and are almost better than when viewing the exhibition with hundreds of other visitors and under dark dramatic lighting.

In addition, the audio feature at the bottom of the page is an excellent supplement to the video. After viewing the video, some of the information is repetitive however Bolton’s narration is easier to follow in the audio component.

Punk Interview for Vogue Italia
A 2o minute behind-the-scenes interview with Bolton, spliced together with images from the catalog and garments as they are prepared for installation. Bolton introduces us to the key concepts in Punk while explaining the ideas behind a number of the exhibition design elements. Bolton is much more personable and conversational in this video, helping to convey his excitement about the subject matter.

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Available now: Punk Style by Worn Through founder, Monica Sklar, PhD. Find it at :, Powell's Books, or a bookseller near you.