NEW YORK — Punk and high fashion can now share the same stage, and a new Costume Institute exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Punk: Chaos to Culture," celebrates that influence.
It's an enduring irony that probably makes punk's rebellious originators cringe — and might make those wearing expensive couture dresses with heavy hardware and sexy slashes a little uncomfortable, too.
But when you rip back the shock value of dresses made with garbage bags, others held together by safety pins or staples, skirts with strategic slashes and T-shirts fronted with provocative sayings, punk largely stood on the principles of individuality and authenticity, both so greatly valued in a DIY, Internet-savvy culture.
"Despite its best intentions, punk has come to symbolize integrity and authenticity," said Andrew Bolton, curator of the exhibit, at a preview Monday. The exhibit opens to the public Thursday.
Punk was born in the 1970s out of a movement that embraced anarchy, and its fashion reflected that.
"Punk fashion started from the street and percolated up, and suddenly couture seemed out of touch and not relevant," said Hamish Bowles, Vogue's international editor at large. "Designers had to find a way to get in on it."
By now, the Dolce & Gabbana graffiti-splashed ballgowns or Burberry leather jacket covered in ultra-sharp spikes worn over a delicate lace cocktail dress would be very much at home on the catwalk or in the pages of Vogue.
And as the collective eye has adjusted to some of the distressed looks that seemed so revolutionary then, leading designers of the day, including Vivienne Westwood, who with partner Malcolm McLaren put naked men on shirts that gave literal meaning to graphic Ts, have since designed Oscar gowns for the likes of Helen Mirren.
What might be more unsettling to exhibit visitors is how nostalgic they might feel for the accoutrements that dot the recreated Westwood-McLaren's Kings Road shop, Clothes for Heroes, in London, including a heavy-handset telephone, cassette tape and big-box TV set.