12 June 2013

Punk: Chaos to Couture

Dress by Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel, Vogue, March 2011

"God save the queen. The fascist regime." Sorry, but when I heard that the Met was going to have an exhibit on punk I couldn't help but start singing "God Save the Queen" by the Sex Pistols. I may never have been a punk but I've definitely listened to a lot of the music.

Which is why I was happy to see the exhibit "Punk: Chaos to Couture" with a dear friend who I've known since middle school who is also a fan of the music. She went with me to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit a few years ago, which was so brilliantly executed that it raised the bar high for future fashion exhibits. 

Unfortunately this one didn't come close. The exhibit starts off well enough with the birth of punk in New York and London represented by recreations of two legendary punk locations—the bathroom at CBGB in New York where Patti Smith said "all the action happened" and Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's Seditionaries shop in London where they sold their infamous t-shirts (some of which are on display) and other bondage-based clothes. There were videos along with music blaring to help set the mood (this was repeated in each gallery; I was happy to hear the Clash in one).

Two Gianni Versace dresses, spring/summer 1994. The one on the left is the safety pin dress made famous by Elizabeth Hurley.

From there the rest of the exhibit is devoted to couture's adoption of punk or punk elements, which after the first round of gowns gets a bit boring. There are plenty of safety pins, studs, plaid, and ripped material to show a connection to punk but how punk can a dress be that costs more than my rent? Some of the more memorable items among the almost 100 on display are Versace's notorious safety pin dress worn by Elizabeth Hurley, a heavily studded black leather jacket by Christopher Bailey for Burberry, a particularly lovely black gown by Moschino decorated with tiny safety pins and rings, Gareth Pugh's black trash bag dresses that look like feathers from afar, Maison Martin Margiela's minimal dresses made out of plastic bags complete with original handles, and McQueen's spray-paint dress. But those items can't quite save the exhibit. Better luck next time, Met.

"Punk: Chaos to Couture" is at the Met through August 14, 2013. For more info visit here. All images from the Met.

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