Few fashion designers have used and manipulated the clothes of past centuries for quite such subversive and fantastic ends as Vivienne Westwood. Since her first forays into design with the shop Let It Rock, which in 1971 plundered 1950s British Teddy Boy style, Westwood was aware of the power of revisiting history and subverting it in order to create a rebellious new vision. As an integral voice of the punk aesthetic, she was part of a movement that believed there was no future; by 1980, however, the central tenant of punk that “clothes equal rebellion” exhausted Westwood. Looking at a history far before her own lifetime, Westwood began her research at Foyle’s bookshop in London, which led her to the National Arts Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Through the work of costume historians Janet Arnold and Norah Waugh, Westwood discovered the intricacies and techniques of a millennium’s worth of dress; she has since spent the last 37 years mining that millennium for a multitude of men’s and women’s collections. Many threads of nostalgia reappear within Vivienne Westwood’s historicism; through her motifs and silhouettes, she finds meaning for today in the clothes of yesteryear.

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