Fashionably Punk: Pinky Out, Middle Finger Up

The walk down Fifth Avenue felt more like a walk down Betsey Johnson's Spring 2013 Fashion Week runway. Climbing the infamous stairs of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you sense an aura of shimmering neon-pink lights and a massive crowd of young people decked out in studs, zippers, and funkadelic graphic tees. Look ahead: cover-band Straight To Hell is performing a solid number from The Clash's oldest album, while the Met's staff serves sparkling pink pomegranate cocktails to set the mood right. May 9th marked the opening of “PUNK: Chaos to Couture” organized by the museum's Costume Institute. This unconventional show of high fashion explores PUNK as a historic movement and genre, along with its continuing influence today.

Pinky Out, Middle Finger Up

 Both fashion and art conform and reflect contemporary trends of modern day society. PUNK, being one of the most anticipated exhibitions of the year, directs fashion in a DIY manner and approaches the audience with great visual and awe-inspiring designs. While trying to highlight the main aspects of the PUNK era, including staple embellished pieces from some of the most well known designers in the industry, this exhibition manifests the clothing worn by musicians, their fans and the posh trends they've influenced. The rebellious young genre of the punk era—with its frayed jeans, cigarette-burnt tee's, acquired by their discolored yellow pit stains, shredded and put back together with safety pins—was highly inspired by the “trash” look emerging in the 70s.

Burberry Ensemble by Christopher Bailey. Photo: Marissa Mule

 Strolling throughout the show, it became clear that the much-glamorized debris of punk fashion was an extraordinary and multifaceted plunge throughout the design industry. Allowing designers such as Versace, Chanel, Moschino, and Vivienne Westwood to transform anti-fashion into high fashion, transmitted a shockwave that became a symbolic force between chaos and couture. In the last room of the exhibit, for example, I was forced to stop and stare at the one mannequin almost every on-looker was Instagramming: A spiked, red-haired woman 'flipping the bird.' This obverse symbol that the Costume Institute assembled in relation to the anarchistic behavior of the punk era, truly defined PUNK as not only a trend but an art form; a direct means of expression.    

"Flipping the bird," a mannequin at PUNK. Photo: Marissa Mule

Thanks to the large quantity of safety-pinned, zippered, studded and graffiti-inspired designs, the scene created an alluring statement for its viewers. The goal of this exhibition was to re-introduce a vaguely remembered time in fashion’s history that involved hardware-like embellishments and accessories as opposed to commonplace beads and embroidery. Throughout every designer piece in the exhibition, you’ll experience an eye-opening gaze and a zing running though your body. This zing defines the manifested elements of punk fashion along with the materials and techniques used in forming this trend. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's PUNK show embodies an extensive range of reflection: from former punkers to today’s stud, everyone’s a fashionista! 

Metropolitan Museum of Art – "PUNK: From Chaos to Couture" – May 9th to August 14th, 2013 – Tues-Thurs: 9:30am–5:30pm, Fri-Sat: 9:30am–9:00pm, Sun: 9:30am–5:30pm

​Article by Marissa L. Mule