Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Reflections on PUNK: Chaos to Couture & Alexander McQueen's "Trash Dress"

“PUNK: Chaos to Couture” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through August 14th
Photo by Abby Battis
Guest blogger: 
Abby Battis, Assistant Director/Curator
Lynn Museum & Historical Society, Lynn, MA (USA)

When you think of the word “punk” in relation to fashion, images of torn slogan tees, "anarchy" piercings, ripped fishnets, and Doc Martens are a few of the icons symbolic of this 1970s subculture of the Punk fashion, rooted in a musical movement, was an exploratory concept that evolved into a deconstructed fashion norm that was thoughtfully chaotic and haphazard but aggressive and forward thinking. Influenced by musical artists from Britain and the United States, the punk movement had a far reaching mark on the world of fashion and changed the way we think about fashion as seen in the annual Costume Institute exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

With this exhibition, the Met promises to “focus on the relationship between the punk concepts of "do-it-yourself” fashion and the couture concept of "made-to-measure”. Throughout the galleries that are filled with a punk music soundtrack including the New York Dolls, the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, are garments heavily torn, ornamented with spikes, chains and safety pin flourishes. And there are the fashion designer icons on view spinning their versions of the punk ideal from Chanel and Burberry to Givenchy and Prada.

The one piece that stands out from all the rest in this exhibition is an Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2009-2010 trash dress. The dress looks fabricated of black 32-gallon trash bags and is complemented by a dark gray bubble wrap, floor length overcoat. At first glance it is instantly identified to be eco-friendly of extraordinarily designed recycled materials but with closer inspection the fabric is identified to be silk and synthetic fibers and not recyclable materials at all.
Courtesy, New York Times

On view in the DIY: Bricolage gallery the “trash dress” sits among other garments of trash and recyclables but  is out of place in its intricate construction and glorious structure. The fabric of the mermaid style dress tightly wraps the body, mysteriously twisting folds that follow the curves of the body but then surprisingly flares into a full kick skirt. The patent-leather like black shine of the fabric plays well with the sleekness of the fitted bodice and gives cause to sigh in overwhelming awe of its elegance. The overcoat is equally stunning yet the functionality and warmth of the garment is questionable; however it works perfectly to complete the look. This piece alone makes a puzzling statement on the punk fashion movement that there is a closer connection of punk to couture than first expected and that movement continues to influence and evolve the fashion of today.

For more information on this dress and more, visit:
“PUNK: Chaos to Couture”
May 9, 2013-August 14, 2013
The Met's spring 2013 Costume Institute exhibition, PUNK: Chaos to Couture, will examine punk's impact on high fashion from the movement's birth in the early 1970s through its continuing influence today. Featuring approximately one hundred designs for men and women, the exhibition will include original punk garments and recent, directional fashion to illustrate how haute couture and ready-to-wear borrow punk's visual symbols.
Focusing on the relationship between the punk concept of "do-it-yourself" and the couture concept of "made-to-measure," the seven galleries will be organized around the materials, techniques, and embellishments associated with the anti-establishment style. Themes will include New York and London, which will tell punk's origin story as a tale of two cities, followed by Clothes for Heroes and four manifestations of the D.I.Y. aesthetic—Hardware, Bricolage, Graffiti and Agitprop, and Destroy.
Presented as an immersive multimedia, multisensory experience, the clothes will be animated with period music videos and soundscaping audio techniques.

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