Alexander McQueen ‘Savage Beauty’ Catalog - Sneak Peek

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Photo: courtesy of The Met

Alexander McQueen Sarabande dress, Spring/Summer 2007.

Models bear all kinds of burdens in the name of fashion: excruciating footwear, perpetual dieting, skin-ravaging makeup. But headlessness? This might be a first.

For the catalog that chronicles “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” the upcoming Costume Institute exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, photographer Solve Sundsbo shot the pieces in the exhibition on real models rather than mannequins.

Though the Costume Institute typically prohibits garments from being worn after they’re acquired by the museum, the real-life model images were manipulated so they only looked like mannequins, for an eerie effect.

“You are not certain whether it is real or fake,” Andrew Bolton, curator of the exhibition, told the New York Times.

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Photo: courtesy of The Met

Alexander McQueen Irere dress, Spring/Summer 2003.

Four models, including Polina Kasina, were covered in an alabaster acrylic paint by M.A.C. that reportedly didn’t rub off on the clothes. Strings were then tied around their limbs to mimic the joints of a mannequin, and the models’ heads were removed digitally.

The result? Dresses are seen on forms which, at first glance, would be assumed to be mannequins, but with lifelike, human contours and movement. That the white paint rubbed off a bit at places like the models’ hands and underarms, showing just a hint of skin underneath, makes the effect all the more ghostly.

“Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” opens May 4 and the corresponding catalog is available for pre-order now.

Meanwhile, see why Lady Gaga thinks Alexander McQueen is continuing to work through her