The “Savage Beauty” retrospective of Alexander McQueen is almost here and to coincide with the exhibit’s opening, Vogue got Steven Meisel to shoot a bunch of top models in a bunch of the label’s most astonishing creations. Sarah Burton, McQueen’s right hand for so long, discussed the method behind each look (live plants! prosthetics! sewing individual flowers onto things!) and one I found especially compelling detailed the making of this gown from the Spring 2001 Voss collection, seen here on Stella Tennant:

“So much of this show was about the collective madness of the world. It was presented in a two-way mirrored glass box in London, and the girls had bandaged heads, acting like inmates of a mental asylum. Lee wanted the top of this dress to be made from surgical slides used for hospital specimens, which we found in a medical-supply shop on Wigmore Street. Then we hand-painted them red, drilled holes in each one, and sewed them on so they looked like paillettes. We hand-painted white ostrich feathers and dip-dyed each one to layer in the skirt.”

See more looks–and Sarah’s fascinating origin stories for each–at Vogue.