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Vivienne Westwood, 1980-1989

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by Joann Jovinelly (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Event: -
The 1980s clothing designs of Vivienne Westwood, fashion trendsetter and the mistress who made punk palatable, are currently on exhibit at the Museum at FIT. Westwood first emerged as a designer in the 1970s during England's punk movement, and was at that time partnered with Malcolm McLaren, then manager of the British band the Sex Pistols. Through the 1980s and 1990s, Westwood's designs were often worn by musicians from Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious to Siouxsie Sioux, Adam Ant, and Boy George. Westwood's designs were sold in a boutique on London's King's Road, which she still owns today.

Vivienne Westwood, 1980–1989 focuses on the period in Westwood's life when her garments, though still quite androgynous, layered, and formfitting, evolved from their earlier punk roots. While Westwood had once incorporated ripped materials, tartan fabrics, and hard metal elements, such as zippers, chains, and safety pins in her punk designs, those made in the 1980s began to show more historical influences and structure.

World's End (Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren), unisex ensemble, multicolor striped cotton, Pirates Collection, 1981, England, gift of Barbara Hodes; Courtesy of FIT

This two-piece men's garment is a colorful nod to Medieval England while still being fresh enough to work as street wear.

Vivienne Westwood, man's two-piece ensemble, red and gold cotton jersey, Civilizade Collection, 1989, England, Museum purchase; Courtesy of FIT

According to FIT Museum Director and Chief Curator Valerie Steele, Westwood's revival of the corset, as seen in this dress from her Time Machine Collection, was among her most influential contributions.

Vivienne Westwood, "Statue of Liberty" corset and skirt, silver leather, silver metallic lamé and white silk tulle, Time Machine Collection, 1988, England, Museum purchase; Courtesy of FIT

These Westwood designed "Rocking Horse" boots from 1987 enabled the wearer to rock back and forth as a playful challenge to conventional footwear.

Vivienne Westwood, "Rocking Horse" boot, black leather and wood, Harris Tweed Collection, 1986, England, gift of Francisco Melendez A.K.A. François; Courtesy of FIT
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Why? To see how fashion integrated punk style.
When: On view until April 2
Where: The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Seventh Ave. at 27th Street
Cost: Free
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