On the heels of the extraordinary Met gala red carpet, we decided to send one of our own to see what the fuss was all about. Here’s our take on the latest from the Met Costume Institute’s Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibition.
Written by Jessica Novak, Senior Marketing Manager for real-time trend insights company Stylitics. Jessica is a blogger, runner, coffee addict, avid alliterator, and chambray enthusiast.
After the religious experience that was the McQueen exhibit in spring of 2011, I went into the Met’s Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibition with high hopes. Pleasantly surprised that there was no line to speak of, my journey into the world of punk rock began without a hitch.
The exhibition sought to explore the influence of original punk culture on couture designs, but, aside from a life-size diorama of the bathroom from the infamous CBGB club in the Bowery where punk supposedly got its start, I was missing the elements of original chaos that later inspired the couture collections.
Yeah, wasn’t kidding.
The punk aesthetic developed simultaneously in New York’s Bowery amongst the middle class and also in London, centered around Westwood and McLaren’s iconic SEX boutique. Imbued with elements of DIY and anti-establishment, the origins of punk were defined by torn jeans, hardware, dyed hair, and S&M subculture.
But as I looked upon an embellished leather skirt by Balmain and a stapled evening gown by Givenchy, it seemed to me as though the punk genre of fashion rose from the runways rather than from the urban culture from which it was inspired. At one point, I stumbled upon a shopping bag that had been fashioned into a onesie (by Maison Martin Margiela, no less), and the irony that this piece of repurposed plastic likely retailed for more than my monthly Manhattan rent was not lost on me.
While I’ll never complain about a collection that brings together the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Viktor & Rolf, Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, Balmain, Commes des Garcons, Maison Martin Margiela, and Yohji Yamamoto, among others, what I did find interesting was the focus on punk fashion more as an artform, and less as something that people actually wore (and wear).
But on the flip side, next time I’m strapped for cash, I know that I can always repurpose my kitchen plates…
Vest fashioned out of plates, far right.
The exhibit ended with a mannequin clothed in a piece of fabric that covered only her side, leaving her chest (and virtually everything else) exposed, raising her middle finger in protest. The garment was ironically called “evening gown.” While a very apt way to end the exhibit, as I walked out, I just couldn’t help but wonder if the dress was actually sent down a runway…
The verdict? Go see it. Punk is making a comeback, and this is one of the few places you’ll get to see the best of Westwood, Rodarte, McQueen, and Balmain up close. Once again, the Met doesn’t disappoint.
And if you’re into a modern day (and more affordable) take on punk, check out the creepers, mesh, and leather in this girl’s closet.
The exhibit is open from May 9th to August 14th.