|By Ginger Levit
The world of fashion can pull off some strange tricks. Try pondering how punk and haute couture could possibly have anything in common.
It is hard to imagine that there might be a relationship between the grungy, tough guy and tough gal style of dressing that caught on in the 70s and high fashion— reserved for the rich and elite, which was known as couture. Both men and women were making a statement, wearing punk and males even became interested in the new fads. The Metropolitan Museum of Art makes a case for these unlikely similarities in its current exhibition Punk: Chaos to Couture, on view there only through mid-August.
What exactly is punk? Actually, it is difficult to find an exact definition; but originality and individuality, and a do-it-yourself mentality dominated the punk movement. Haute couture picked up the message, inspiring the world’s leading fashion designers to also be highly original and create one of a kind iconic clothing.
Punk meant anarchy, chaos and rebellion in actions; it was a reflection of sexual behavior and political beliefs; its purpose was to expose, shock and provoke.
Fashion was making a political statement. Using materials such as bobby pins and safety pins instead of beautiful buttons and buckles, punk fashion was often self concocted. Skinny jeans or tight pants, black plastic or leather jackets and torn T shirts were customized with a do it yourself kind of mentality. Haute couture took a look and incorporated certain elements of one of a kind and found materials to come up with an elegant, yet somewhat bohemian look. Perhaps punk style justified the adoption of punk ideas by important British designers as John Galliano of the House of Dior and Vivienne Westwood. Punk rock music also came into vogue.
Punk fashion began around 1974 in New York and 1975 in London. U. S. punk was mostly torn shirts and jeans; English punk was distinguished by both men and women sporting brightly colored hair. Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren led the way designing bondage suits, parachute shirts, string and mohair sweaters and T shirts with offensive slogans written on them. Alexander McQueen’s designs were also shockers. His black and white wool knit dress features skull and crossbones on the bodice.
Perhaps it culminated with haute couture designers such as Giverny, Balenciaga, Nicolas Ghesquierre, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace who used D.I.Y Hardware instead of sequins, beads and feathers to blur the lines between high fashion and punk. Do It Yourself hardware included studs, spikes, chains, padlocks and safety pins to denote violence and even cruelty.
Givenchy designed a very feminine pink silk chiffon dress that suggested punk by its use of chains and zippers. McQueen and others used black plastic to make dresses that imitated trash bags.
The punks loved graffiti and often painted onto themselves. Their splatters gave rise to comparisons with the drip paintings of Jackson Pollock. Their graffiti suggested trash and garbage; it was a celebration of the low and the profane.
See six galleries full of punk music, film and fashion by fine designers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1000 Fifth Avenue in New York City through mid-August. Go to www.metmuseum.org for more information.