As the opening date of the highly anticipated “Punk: Chaos to Couture” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute approaches, the fashion world is in a frenzy over the slashes and safety pins of 70’s-era punk rockers. Unsurprisingly, this trend has yet to trickle down to my oh-so-fashionable hometown of College Station, Texas. Why? First, high fashion tends to dawdle on its way to the masses. A new look will first appear in the pages of Vogue and on the runways at Fashion Week, then in upscale boutiques, and then in mega-hip big city chains like Topshop before finally meandering its way to small-town shops months later.
Second, punk isn’t “pretty.” Or “cute.” Or remotely appropriate for a
sorority formal. Punk is loud-and-proud, do-it-yourself, big ol’ middle finger to The Man mayhem. The punk movement was about more than safety pins and tartan; it gave frustrated, lower class young people (and their many copycats) a voice in a society that seemed determined to silence them. Punk was rebellious, shocking, sexy, and expressive in an unprecendented and undeniably influential way.
Although “Punk: Chaos to Couture” has been given the seal of approval by punk legends including the Sex Pistols’ John Lydon (you know him as Johnny Rotten), designer Vivienne Westwood, and punk pioneer Richard Hell, many spectators (myself included) are wondering: what’s so punk about fashion anyway? In many ways fashion is the antithesis of punk. High fashion reeks of
elitism; low fashion breeds conformity. Yet, one of the most definitive characteristics of punk was its DIY aesthetic… and isn’t designing haute couture the ultimate DIY project? The exorbitant prices of couture dresses aren’t exactly punk, but the hours of meticulous needlework and highly individualistic visions of the designers most certainly are. Couture rebels against trends as often as it sets them. In addition, modern fashion is practically defined by a band of DIY critics, stylists, and editors: the bloggers. Often with little more than amateur photography skills and good taste, the most powerful fashion bloggers have worked their way up from HTML for Dummies to the front rows at fashion week. Modern fashion has also seen the rising popularity of designer capsule collections created especially for mass retailers like Target and H&M. Challenging the elitism of high fashion by making it accessible to the 99% is rebellious, revolutionary, and – you guessed it – punk.
While you probably won’t be investing in a couture dress anytime soon, it’s easy to incorporate a little punk into your wardrobe. Rebel against the
Nike shorts and Chaco-clad masses with cheeky t-shirts, combat boots, and spike motifs. Add some DIY touches by slashing up old jeans, and scouring Goodwill for the perfect moto jacket. While the punk look is working its way down the fashion ladder, here are some ideas for staying ahead of the curve. Rock on!
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Necklace: Forever 21
Jacket: Urban Outfitters
Leggings: Black Milk Clothing
Boots: Dr. Martens
Pants: Blank NYC