Exhibition File – Punk: Chaos to Couture

Punk: Chaos to Couture graphic, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

It is the time of year that fashion historians wait for with anticipation — the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute fashion exhibition. This year’s theme is Punk: Chaos to Couture. Curated by Andrew Bolton, the exhibition design is sure to thrill with sensory overload.

According to the Met’s website, Punk “will examine punk’s impact on high fashion from the movement’s birth in the early 1970s through its continuing influence today. Featuring approximately one hundred designs for men and women, the exhibition will include original punk garments and recent, directional fashion to illustrate how haute couture and ready-to-wear borrow punk’s visual symbols.”

The major themes in the show include New York and London, Clothes for Heroes, Hardware, Bricolage, Graffiti and Agitprop, and Destroy. It’ll look at the DIY aesthetic and the ways the original punk movement inspire designers working today.

I’m actually going to New York this weekend specifically to see the show. I saw Bolton’s AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion exhibition in 2006, and it was over the top. I’m still kicking myself for not finding a way to New York to see his famed Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty show — the 5th most attended exhibition at the Met.

The show opens to the public today and runs until August 14. Some of the reviews are out:

Robin Givhan says that “Even If Punk Can’t Shock, Fashion Still Can.”
Suzy Menkes thinks the exhibition is “Punk Without the Down and Dirty.”
Sasha Frere Jones decries the show as “The Day That Punk Died Again.”

I’m trying to reserve judgement, even though these reviews do not say the most flattering things about Punk. This is not the first time Bolton has been accused of not contextualizing the fashion he exhibits. His shows are not for fashion historian purists. I’ll let you know what I think after this weekend.

Address: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 215 Centre Street, New York, New York
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 9:30-5:30, Friday-Saturday 9:30-9, Sunday 9:30-5:30
Recommended Admission: adults $25, seniors $17, students $12, members and children under 12 free
Website: www.metmuseum.org/Exhibitions/listings/2013/PUNK?utm_source=homepage&utm_medium=banner&utm_campaign=punk


  1. I await your verdict with interest….

  2. Jess says:

    I haven’t heard many positive sentiments about the exhibition either – even just the theme itself has drawn a lot of ire given that the punk movement is in many ways essentially antithetical to couture clothing. I can see why people would be annoyed by that, given that that means the exhibition is probably going to struggle to do justice to the authentic, original punk movement and its imagery, but it’s still interesting to see how designers have subsequently incorporated punk influences into their creations, even if they are so very far from subscribing to punk’s tenets. I guess that true punk imagery can sometimes be pretty confronting, so exploring it more indirectly through the more restrained lens of *interpretations* of punk could make the whole thing more palatable to more people. Anyway, I most likely won’t be able to get to the exhibition, so I’ll be interested to read your thoughts on it!

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