“Punk is musical freedom. It’s saying, doing, and playing what you want.” – Kurt Cobain

I’m pretty sure it’s fate that I’m in New York this summer – I think I would’ve died if I had missed the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Punk: Chaos to Couture” exhibit. Where do I even begin?

As a firm believer that “punk” is bigger than music, than fashion – truly an attitude and a lifestyle – the Met couldn’t have conveyed punk’s far reach better.

The exhibit presented punk as a sort of “tale of two cities”, a lifestyle that overtook both New York City and London in the 1970s. And though designs by everyone from Junya Watanabe and Vivienne Westwood to Dolce & Gabbana and Versace were the main focus, the way the rooms were set up made it all feel authentic, as if you had boarded a time travel machine to a much more carefree, “fuck you” kind of era. Music, video, and even a recreation of the CBGB bathroom revived punk in the city, and proved that this lifestyle is far from over.

What I loved most about “Chaos to Couture” was how they featured so many “D.I.Y.” looks – safety pins, rips, trash bags, you name it. And, of course, a quote by Sid Vicious was on the wall about how the D.I.Y. thing came about. Though it’s considered chic now, it all started because a bunch of poor punks couldn’t afford to get new clothes.

The first room in the exhibit, featuring a punk music and fashion mashup.
The next room, with looks by designers from Vivienne Westwood to Balenciaga.
A recreation of the CBGB bathroom. Badass much?
The D.I.Y./Hardware hallway.
The D.I.Y./Bricolage room – I couldn’t believe these looks were made from, well, garbage.
My favorite part of Chaos to Couture, complete with paint-splattered Dolce & Gabbana gowns.
Some of these looks had extra sleeves, making the outfits look totally avant-garde.
The last looks, echoing the sentiments of punks around the world.

As a music and punk culture enthusiast, I did find it a little hilarious picturing artists like Sid Vicious seeing this exhibit. He’d probably walk through, spitting on the clothes while taking a drag off his cigarette. But what was I supposed to do, not go? Yeah, right.

– All images courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art –