Vivienne Westwood :The Seamstress Behind the Punk Movement

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Bondage Pants 1977
Metropolitan Museum

Malcolm Mclaren  was a major force behind the punk sound that emerged from London in the mid 1970’s . While it can be disputed whether or not it was Mclaren who came up with the concept for  his proteges’ band, the Sex Pistols or if it was the band members themselves, i.e., Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, no one can dispute that  it was his  wife Vivienne Westwood who actually created and sewed the looks that the band wore. By studying the fashions of Londons’ seedier occupants like bikers and sex workers,Westwood and her husband McClaren conceptualized the new deconstructionist  fashion phenomenon known as the “punk look”.
Vivienne Westwood 1977


 Her iconoclastic angry fashions with their safety pins, razor blades, dog collars, and chains spoke to a whole generation of alienated kids. Whether it was the bad economy in England, the recent  breakdown of traditional values, or a backlash against the hippy zeitgeist, what caused the punk movement is something that has been widely debated. I just know as an angry young punk in the early 80’s that I WANTED a pair of those cool chained, belted, and zippered plaid “bondage “pants. I never did get a pair and had to make do with draping my torn jeans with lots of belts!
Sex Pistols 1977
Not only did Ms. Westwood create ” the punk look” but she went on to design the “New Romantic” pirate look that came after and was worn by the likes of Adam Ant . She also outfitted clothing for the pop fashion icon Boy George. Vivienne Westwood is still designing today although her clientele is a lot more affluent these days. 
Adam Ant c.1982

Boy George C.1982

For someone who only spent one year in fashion school and who taught herself how to make the corsets and iconoclastic clothing which made her famous, this designer has made a lasting impression.  At 70 years old this is what she had to say about todays young generation in a recent Wall Street Journal article:
“Now I don’t put any faith in youth. I do to the extent that they are always idealistic, but the last lot of them have been brought up to be heavy consumers.”

I’m sure Ms. Westwood would agree that is all the more reason for we sewers to be”sewing evangelists!”






Sources:

Christopher Breward,The Culture of Fashion(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995)
The Wall Street Journal, April 9, 2011
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-McKenzie

Comments

  1. A.J.A. says

    Interesting! I didn’t know anything about any of this. I’d love to see a pic of you in your punk get up!