Spring 2009 Trend Spotlight: Skeletal Style

About a month ago, I realized I had been seeing a lot of ribcages, spines, and bones of every variety on the Spring 2009 runways. Gaunt, ghoulish, and just discomfiting enough to subconsciously raise eyebrows and goose bumps from onlookers, I fathomed that these visceral displays would belatedly incur media discussion. No, for once I am not talking about the rakishly thin models: I am talking about the clothes they were wearing.

Skeletal inspiration was everywhere this season, and as I predicted, the mainstream media have finally caught on. With that in mind, and in the spirit of Halloween, let’s take a look at how fashion played macabre, bizarrely intriguing games with anatomical forms of the human – and not so human – kind for Spring 2009.

Alexander McQueen will likely be credited as the progenitor of this trend, although weeks earlier, many New York designers premiered “cagey” concepts: Rodarte’s exoskeleton obsession, Camille Staerks wraithlike severity, Ohne Titel’s and Jeremy Laing’s “ribbed” focus all provided a springboard for the skeletal dialectic.

But it was McQueen who gave all those bones a beguiling context. His collection explored the aesthetics of evolution with devilish aplomb. While he tempered the morbidity with Noah’s Ark theatrics and his final Easter Bunny alter ego, what stood out the most were the Geiger-esque skeletal fashions on the runway. Channeling the complexities of cyberpunk graphics while hinting at posthuman mutation, McQueen’s psycho spinal creations were eerie yet elegant.

Christian Lacroix took the hyperbolic approach and turned skeletal elements into couture costume, in only the way he can. Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci – along with Narciso Rodriguez – built bones into linear (all too human) bondage.

In London, the great, twisted necromantic Giles Deacon juxtaposed ribcages over floral frocks, and kinetic knitwear virtuoso Louise Goldin turned out hardcore spring knits that bravely reshaped the female skeleton, often involving dare-to-go-there chest exposure.

Fashion’s fascination with the skeletal side never fades. McQueen’s skull prints, Bernard Wilhelm’s daring presentation savvy, and Thomas Wylde’s entire spectrum of wares prove that there’s a certain allure in “showing your bones”. Whether Spring 2009’s more literal, subversive adaptation of the trend is co-opted by the mainstream remains to be seen, but there’s no better time than now to experiment: after all, Halloween renders all fashion trials unimpeachable.

Will you be letting any new skeletons into your closet next season?