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McQueen, the label behind Kate Middleton's wedding dress, gets kinky

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PARIS - The ivory silk wedding dress that Kate Middleton chose for her date with history was Alexander McQueen, but it was hard to imagine the demure now-Duchess of Cambridge sporting the S&M-infused black teddy, the head-enveloping lace-and-leather face masks or any of the other extreme looks that came down the label's runway on Tuesday.

The house was built on just such harsh beauty, but following the February 2010 suicide of its namesake and founder, it appeared as if his successor would steer the label in a softer, more consensual direction. For her debut as creative director, Sarah Burton delivered a collection that loosened the screws on McQueen's punishingly nipped waists and smoothed out some of his harshest angles.

And then there was the dress, the wedding gown that saw Middleton transformed from commoner into royalty — the single most coveted assignment in recent fashion history. Kept under the strictest of wraps up until Middleton alighted at Westminster Abbey on April 29 — before some two billion spectators worldwide — the simple-lined, long-sleeve concoction became an instant legend and unleashed a bridal wave of copycats.

But the Duchess of Cambridge has notoriously low-key style, and trying to imagine her in anything from the spring-summer 2012 collection was absurd. After all, what would she do with her luscious locks — not to mention her face — in one of those lacy pantyhose head masks that topped off all the looks? (Covered in pearls or sporting a metal beard made out of what appeared to be straight pins, they were like the world's chicest and most twisted Mexican lucha libre masks.)

With the collection, Burton's third as creative director, she tightened the screws again. Suits with flippy skirts and shrunken jackets were cinched at the waist with oversized belts with kinky lace-up detailing. Evening gowns entirely covered in pearls or mother-or pearl scales were ravishing, but looked about as conformable as straitjackets.

The show elicited among the most positive reactions of any of the Paris collections, and Burton looked almost embarrassed by the hubbub as she ducked onstage for a bow.

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