The punk aesthetic of the 1970s, its underground survival throughout the 1980s, and its high-fashion revival in the 1990s have profoundly shaped what it means to be a rebellious youth. To be punk means to express one's disillusionment with the status quo and to challenge it.
In the D.I.Y.: Bricolage gallery in PUNK: Chaos to Couture, we see fashion designers taking garbage bags and bottle caps out of their original context to create clothing that is not only wearable but beautiful. What surprised me most when I visited was the amount of volume and texture in the dresses at center stage, as well the amount to which they are actually high fashion; though they appear to be spontaneous and free, in reality they are quite precise. In fact, we can look at these dresses much as we do Claude Monet's Water Lilies—as masterpieces that break down our perception of ephemeral beauty with painstaking care and detail. Thus, the Prada Ensemble (Spring/Summer 2007) and the John Galliano dress (2001) in the exhibition become more than just bottle caps painted with gold and silver or multicolored canvases. They become instead the counterculture of the counterculture, a merger of punk and high fashion.
PUNK: Chaos to Couture