August marks the month when I pull together all my ideas, photos, and sketches and pay my first visit to my ballgown designer, Frankie de Leon, to start the exciting process of having my custom gown made for this year's Marine Ball. Yipiee! This will be the last year I get to do this, so I've been thinking about this since last year's Marine Ball ended.
I've scanned fashion magazines and celebrity red carpet events looking for colors, fabrics, and styles of gowns that I like (getting a custom gown made is a perk while living in Manila-and definitely something THIS Mama could get used to). When I see something I like I make a mental note to get online and look it up or make a little sketch in my notebook for later.
Last winter, I was gifted a huge stack of old US Weekly magazines from a friend. While paging through them, I first came across a photo of Cameron Diaz wearing an amazing red Alexander McQueen gown to the Golden Globe Awards.
I'm not a huge Diaz or McQueen fan, in general, (although without knowing much about them, you can't deny their talents in their lines of work). I tend to be more of a Gwyneth Paltrow or Nina Ricci kind of gal. I filed away the red dress in my head and plugged onward, searching for the ONE. Last year, I designed a gown with a specific style and look in mind. The year before that, I had a very specific dress in mind that I'd always loved. This year I didn't have a specific style in mind or a beloved gown that I'd always wanted to own so I just kept looking. All the while, that red Alexander McQueen kept popping up in my brain. It became the dress I compared all other dresses to. That's when I knew that I had, in fact, found the ONE already. (this is all sounding a tad ridiculous and dramatic, I do realize I am talking about a dress here-just indulge me a little)
To pay homage to the man behind the design of the gown I fell in love with; I did a little research.
During his lifetime, Alexander McQueen shocked the fashion industry with his unconventional designs and his early death in February of this year. The 41 year old British fashion designer had started his career at Givenchy before opening his own couture line of clothing. He is best known for dressing celebrities. Some being David Bowie, Lady Gaga, and Rhianna; all fashion trend setters. He is widely adored for his eccentric styles and even earned British Designer of the year four times between 1996 and 2003.
I first looked at some of his work as one might go to a museum to see Matisse. In an era where the art of couture is moving aside to make way for the demand of ready-to-wear fashions; it is my opinion that McQueen's collections and runway shows stood out by creating controversy and conversation as all great artwork should. Alexander McQueen was a visionary artist.
Looking at his work from a "would I wear that?" perspective; I find much of his work to be, well, extravagant and shocking. I can see the artistry and vision behind the work but it's generally not something that I'd wear.
That's why this impeccably draped red gown with the perfect sleeves and raised shoulders is such a surprise to me. The color, the shape, the dramatic style without showing much skin is perfection.
I have no intentions of disrespecting Mr. McQueen's design by creating a knock-off Alexander McQueen gown. Instead, I'd like to bring the design a new life via Frankie, the Filipino designer, and myself, the stay-at-home Mom and wife of a diplomat who moonlights as a wanna be fashionista once in awhile when I'm allowed out of the house to be with other adults; one night being the annual Marine Ball in Manila! Inevitably, the gown that Frankie and I create will be different from the original because, well, no one is Alexander McQueen. But, I sure hope we can get the essence of this dress. It's pretty fabulous.
Frankie loved the gown and the challenge of it. We chose the fabric and color and he sketched out his initial vision. There are lots of changes and adjustments made to the design that occur over many fittings in the next few months. That's part of the fun! I hope we can do this dress justice. I also hope I can find the perfect red lipstick to wear with it.