Fashion Birthday: Vivienne Westwood

Happy birthday to Vivienne Westwood, born on this day in 1941! We wish her the best and look forward to many more of her inventive designs. Though Westwood's early career, which began in the early 1970s, was closely associated with punk, by the 1980s she had turned to the past for her primary inspiration. Never one for straight-forward interpretation of historic fashion, Westwood's work reinterprets aspects of history, making them relevant to the contemporary moment.

200451-7Corset & Shorts Ensemble
Spring/Summer 1994
Vivienne Westwood
Museum Purchase
2003.5.12 & 2004.5.1


Vivienne Westwood mines museum collections for inspiration,
deconstructing historical themes to generate modern designs. Like its
eighteenth-century ancestor, this corset features internal boning, wide
shoulder strops, and a "stomacher" at center front. However, while Ancien Régime
corsets were rigid, tightly laced constructions of linen boned with
baleen or reeds—the most luxurious examples covered in silk
brocade—Westwood's version is made of synthetic stretch lame, flexible
plastic boning, and fastens with a zipper. Nevertheless, it creates the
same swelling bosom popular 250 years ago. Instead of covering the front
of the corset with an historically correct, ribbon-trimmed triangular
panel, a silkscreened copy of the 1743 painting Daphnis et Chloé by François Boucher (1703-1770) reinforces the Louis XV theme.

The flamboyant wool twill hot pants paired with this corset also
contain ironic historical allusions, though they reference a different
time period and gender. Elizabethan men wore full-bottomed breeches with
form-fitting doublets that were as stiff as corsets. The baggy cut of
their breeches facilitated horseback riding and showed off a great deal
of expensive material. This tasseled and faux-fur-trimmed female version
of sixteenth-century male garb demonstrates Westwood's time-and-gender
bending approach to contemporary design at its best.


One response to “Fashion Birthday: Vivienne Westwood

  1. Zed Power says:

    The top is great. As for the bottom, you should not have stolen those curtains from that funeral home.

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