Type, intercourse and drag: Vivienne Westwood’s queer legacy

I used to be 13 years previous after I came upon Vivienne Westwood. The track got here first. From the instant I heard the album. By no means thoughts the bullshit, listed here are the Intercourse Pistols, I were given hooked. Inside of a couple of months, I used to be spending my pocket cash on a Westwood knockoff: plaid bondage pants. My punk glance used to be finished with torn T-shirts fixed with protection pins, a customized jean jacket with bullet holes within the again, and Document Martens boots.

Simplest lately have I come to needless to say what maximum attracted me to the punk aesthetic, pioneered by way of Vivienne Westwood within the mid-to-late Seventies, used to be its queerness. From the start of her design occupation, Westwood’s clothes challenged and undermined gender norms, which is most certainly why she’s so respected by way of the LGBTQI+ neighborhood.

Westwood started promoting clothes from a store at 430 Kings Highway, Chelsea along with her then-boyfriend, Malcolm McLaren, in 1971. The 3rd and maximum radical incarnation of that SEX store, it bought rubber and leather-based fetish pieces along McLaren and Westwood designs. , together with the unique. bondage pants that she coveted when she used to be a teen.

That is the place the queer, sadomasochistic aesthetic of punk comes from.

Scanned SEX symbol from an grownup mag known as Gallery World (1976).

queer aesthetic

Queerness as a theoretical and cultural concept used to be highlighted within the Nineteen Eighties by way of the French thinker Michel Foucault. Merely put, queer principle is the learn about of the entirety outdoor of the heteronormative.

heteronormativity situates heterosexual want because the normative machine (how issues must be) of society. This comprises trust within the gender binary and presupposes particular masculine/female, masculine/female habits. Anything, together with perceived deviant sexual behaviors like sadomasochism, is queer.

It used to be on the SEX retailer in 1975 that McLaren and Westwood first bought the enduring homosexual jean blouse. A theme selected extra for its surprise price than for causes of alliance. It includes a becoming design by way of American artist Jim French that includes two males dressed as pantsless cowboys, their penises nearly touching, as one tucks his bandana round his pal’s neck.

The textual content underneath: “Hello Joe. Have you ever been someplace in recent times? No, all of it comes right down to it, Invoice. Gettin’ too directly”, mockingly laments the lack of queer areas. He’s prescient of the as soon as hidden international of the homosexual subculture this is now uncovered to the mainstream.

The enduring homosexual jean blouse designed by way of McLaren and Westwood.
Vivienne Westwood website online

That jersey ended in indecency trials for retailer clerk Alan Jones, in addition to Westwood and McLaren. It turned into a staple of the punk uniform worn by way of the Siouxsie Sioux, Sid Vicious, and lots of others but even so.

Sid Vicious in his homosexual jean blouse in 1977 (photograph by way of Dennis Morris).

Difficult the gender binary

Queerness and difficult the gender binary in type were part of Westwood’s designs since she moved her garments from the excessive side road to the couture runway.

For her Pirate assortment in 1981, the clothier let the fashions, women and men, make a selection their garments for themselves irrespective of gender. It used to be a method bought at Worlds Finish, the overall incarnation of 430 Kings Highway, redone to signify a pirate send. The shop stays a mecca for Westwood devotees nowadays. The bootleg glance used to be worn by way of Malcolm McLaren’s musical protégés Adam Ant, Boy George and Bow Wow Wow: new romantic dandies who performed with gender and androgyny.

Vivienne Westwood’s runways featured males in skirts and attire lengthy earlier than Harry Types, Sam Smith and Jaden Smith wore non-binary type to crimson carpet occasions.

Vivienne Westwood and fashions pose for photographers at their Autumn/Wintry weather 2020 type week display in London, Friday, February 14, 2020.
Grant Pollard/Invision/AP

The new type for males dressed in pearl necklaces and pearl drop earrings used to be additionally heralded by way of Westwood, who had males dressed in pearls at the runway for the reason that early Nineteen Nineties. Westwood pearl jewellery hasn’t ever been extra trendy. Timothée Chalamet cemented his “beautiful boy” popularity when he wore a Vivienne Westwood pearl choker on the premiere of the film Bones and All in Rome final yr.

Westwood and drag tradition

When Westwood died on December 29, 2022, tributes flowed from the fad and leisure neighborhood. Amongst them have been most of the stars of the worldwide fact hit RuPaul’s Drag Race. This yr, RuPaul’s Drag Race introduced its 15th season in North The usa. His transfer to MTV (staying on Stan in Australia) has secured a spot within the mainstream for subversive queer drag tradition.

British drag superstar Bimini Bom Boulash took to Instagram and posted:

Heartbroken by way of the inside track. I want the sector used to be extra like Vivienne Westwood. Leisure in Energy Vivienne. My Inspiration ceaselessly.

The winner of the primary season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, The Vivienne, who takes her identify from the clothier, posted:

Vivienne Westwood is the lady who confirmed me that I may do the rest, that I may put on no matter I sought after, she used to be an ICON and I lived my existence via hers in some way.

Raja Gemini, who took the crown for the 3rd season of Drag Race, is broadly thought to be at first amongst type queens. Her 5th episode runway glance—a wig, corset, and high-pile pants patterned in pastel shapes paying homage to French Rococo artwork—could be very paying homage to Westwood’s 1991 portrait assortment. If he listens carefully, he will even listen display pass judgement on Michelle Visage say “there may be Westwood” as Raja walks out onto the primary level.

Beneath the inventive route of Westwood’s husband, Andreas Kronthaler, the emblem has develop into a pacesetter in non-binary type. The fashions put on skirts, attire, and heels irrespective of their gender identification.

Beneath Kronthaler’s route, former Drag Race contestants and outstanding type queens have develop into a part of the Westwood circle of relatives. Drag queen Milk used to be photographed for a Jurgen Teller Westwood SS2018 marketing campaign to coincide with the outlet of a brand new boutique in New York Town in 2018. Queens Omit Repute and Symone sat entrance row on the Vivienne Westwood displays for the Week de los angeles Moda de Paris dressed within the clothier’s garments in 2021.

Omit Repute and Symone attend the Vivienne Westwood Spring-Summer time 2022 ready-to-wear type display offered in Paris on Saturday, October 2, 2021.
Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

Now, some 30 years once I first realized of his paintings, I’m fortunate to possess Westwood clothes. Dressed in one among his kilts, a billowing toga blouse, lopsided “booze pants” and pirate boots raises eyebrows and admiration in equivalent measure. Westwood as soon as stated: “You might have a extra fascinating existence in the event you put on spectacular garments.”

I will be able to vouch for it. Their garments make me really feel extra authentically myself as a queer particular person.

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