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Vivienne Westwood, 1980-89

Cheri Fein, executive director, Public and Media Relations
212 217.4700 or [email protected]
Vivienne Westwood, 1980-89
On View at the Museum at FIT March 8-April 2 The Museum at FIT and the Fashion Institute of Technology's Master of Arts program in Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice present Vivienne Westwood, 1980-89 the first exhibition to focus on Westwood's transformation from street provocateur to acclaimed fashion designer.  Featuring more than 40 objects, including clothing, photographs, magazines, and videos, the exhibition will explore Westwood's design aesthetic, press coverage, and clientele.

Candidates for the Master of Arts degree in Fashion and Textile Studies at FIT present an annual exhibition at The Museum at FIT as part of their curriculum, taking on the roles of conservators, curators, educators, exhibition designers, publicists, registrars, and researchers. Drawing from the collection of The Museum at FIT, Vivienne Westwood, 1980-89 will feature iconic Westwood ensembles.  

World's End bra top and skirt Rocking horse boot Men's ensemble
Worlds End (Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren), bra top and skirt, brown satin, brown printed cotton, Buffalo collection, Fall 1982, England, museum purchase.   Vivienne Westwood, Rocking Horse boot, black leather and wood, Harris Tweed collection, Fall 1986, England, gift of Francisco Melendez A.K.A. Franois Vivienne Westwood, mans two-piece ensemble, red and gold cotton jersey, Civilizade collection, spring 1989, England, museum purchase.
Westwood and her then-partner, Malcolm McLaren, first became known for their provocative punk clothing in the mid-1970s. While they presented runway collections for the first time in the early 1980s, their post-punk following was limited mostly to outsider fashion magazines and members of Londons street culture. In 1985, however, Westwood's clothing became more structured, feminine, and historically inspired. Between 1985 and 1989, her collections were shown in London, New York, and Paris, where they increasingly attracted the attention of the mainstream press, as well as the broader public. Westwood's importance to the fashion industry was recognized in 1990 when she was named British Designer of the Year.

Exhibition highlights from the first half of the decade will include a unisex ensemble from the Pirate collection of 1981 and an outfit from the influential Buffalo collection (Autumn/Winter 1982-83). The Buffalo ensemble features a satin bra intended to be visible a cheeky, early example of the 80s trend of underwear as outerwear. Pirate and Buffalo were successful within a youth market niche.

After Westwood's separation from McLaren in 1985, her designs began to undergo a significant change in silhouette and inspiration. Turning the 19th-century cage crinoline (hoop skirt) into a flirty mini-skirt, Westwood explored a more structured, feminine shape. These mini-crinis caught the attention of the mainstream fashion press and widened Westwood's audience. A number of rare photographs featuring mini-crini ensembles taken for The Washington Post will be included in the exhibition.
World's End unisex ensemble Corset and skirt Women's ensemble in tweed and tartan
 Worlds End (Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren), unisex ensemble, multicolor striped cotton, Pirates collection, Fall 1981, England, gift of Barbara Hodes. 
 Vivienne Westwood, Statue of Liberty corset and skirt, silver leather, silver metallic lam and white silk tulle, Time Machine collection, fall 1988, England, museum purchase.  
Vivienne Westwood, woman's jacket and skirt ensemble, purple tweed, red tartan wool, white cotton, Time Machine collection, Fall 1988, England, museum purchase. 
A pair of Westwood's iconic Rocking Horse boots from the 1987 Harris Tweed collection will also be featured.  This innovative style allowed the wearer to rock back and forth, creating an interesting dynamic in combination with the clothing from Harris Tweed: the collection drew inspiration from traditional British dress, while the footwear questioned the stability of those conventions.

An 18th-century-inspired Statue of Liberty corset and skirt from the influential Time Machine collection (Fall/Winter 1988-89) will show Westwood's remarkable mastery of historical corsetry. According to museum Director and Chief Curator Valerie Steele, the revival of the corset was perhaps the most important of Westwood's innovations.

The exhibition will conclude with a menswear ensemble from the Civilizade collection (Spring/Summer 1989). The bi-colored knit ensemble, with articulated elbow and kneepads, combines Westwood's interest in medieval heraldry with padding that is usually associated with skateboarding. The outfit underscores Westwood's ability to unite historical costume, street culture, and mainstream fashion elements that continue to be relevant to her work today.

Vivienne Westwood, 1980-89  runs from March 8 through April 2, 2011.  Co-curators Emma Kadar-Penner and Audrey Chaney will give public tours of the exhibition on March 16 and March 21, as part of the museums Fashion Culture series. A website created in conjunction with the exhibition will include educational resources and further information about Westwood's career and work in the 1980s.


Annabella Lwin Boy George
 Laura Levine, Annabella Lwin, NYC, 1981
Black and white photograph
Courtesy of the artist. Laura Levine
Laura Levine, Boy George, London, 1982
Black and white photograph
Courtesy of the artist. Laura Levine

The Museum at FIT is the only museum in New York City dedicated solely to the art of fashion. Best known for its innovative and award-winning exhibitions, which have been described by Roberta Smith in The New York Times as ravishing, the museum has a collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories dating from the 18th century to the present. Like other fashion museums, such as the Muse de la Mode, the Mode Museum, and the Museo de la Moda, The Museum at FIT collects, conserves, documents, exhibits, and interprets fashion. The museums mission is to advance knowledge of fashion through exhibitions, publications, and public programs. Visit www.fitnyc.edu/museum.

The Couture Council is a membership group of fashion enthusiasts that helps support the exhibitions and programs of The Museum at FIT. The Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion is given to a selected designer at a benefit luncheon every September. For information on the Couture Council, call 212 217.4532 or email [email protected].

FIT's Master of Arts program in Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice prepares students for careers as curators, conservators, collections managers, and historians in the field of dress studies. For more information, visit www.fitnyc.edu/fashiontextilehistory.

Museum Hours
Tuesday-Fridaynoon-8 pm
Saturday10 am-5 pm
Closed Sunday, Monday, and legal holidays.
Admission is free and open to the public.