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AW96 Alexander McQueen ‘Life is Pain’ Mesh Sheer Tank-Top

AW96 Alexander McQueen ‘Life is Pain’ Mesh Sheer Tank-Top


Measurements & Condition


Chest - 15 in / 38.1 cm

Length - 31 in / 78.7 cm

Shoulders - 10.25 in / 26 cm

Hem - 14 in / 35.6 cm


Condition 9/10 (missing wash tag)

  • Alexander McQueen’s prolific Fall 1996 collection was titled ‘Dante’. Basking in reference to both Christianity and the occult, he’d first find duality in the name, referencing Dante Alighieri, the eponymous narrator of Dante’s Inferno. Guiding readers through the nine circles of hell, Alighieri’s infamous work ‘Divine Comedy’ would help McQueen draft the show’s initial, religious-centred concept. Set in London’s 18th Century ‘Christ Church’, a building McQueen was fascinated with in relation to architect Nicholas Hawksmoor’s suspected ties to satanism, he would place a human skeleton in the front row. Additionally, he’d draw from the likes of Joel-Peter Witkin’s dark and macabre photography, most specifically Witkin’s masks, which would be recreated within the show. McQueen’s fascination with war, and it’s relationship with religion also stood out as a large theme throughout the Fall of ‘96. Plastering harrowing imagery of war-torn distress during Vietnam’s great collide, McQueen’s friend would illegally print each photo at Central Saint Martins (where he studied). Providing further insight, McQueen would comment “I think religion has caused every war in the world, which is why I showed in a church". Among such masterful reference, to finish the British designer would hand select hues of black (a symbol of death), white (symbol of purity), and lilac (the colour of Victorian half mourning) to encircle the collection. Doubling as one of Alexander McQueen’s greatest works, Dante would also portray his inauguration to the menswear circuit, while igniting the career-definition tradition of theatrics until his death in 2010.


    Among the tense setting of McQueen’s Fall 1996 collection, stood pieces seeping with Christianity. Of such, the infamous ‘Life is Pain’ tank top lies, hailed as a pinnacle of the show’s intricate design philosophy - a signature of his career. Crafted in a lightweight, sheer textile, ‘Life is Pain’ lettering arcs across the chest, accented by an embroidered flaming cross and figurehead just beneath. On the underside an ‘AM’ crest is found, finalizing this incredibly rare piece of history. In fact, this tank-top comes in the second of two silhouettes that sport the Life is Pain graphic, this being the far more lucrative, oversized cut. In pristine condition throughout aside from a lack of interior wash tags, fitting a size small.

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