Vivienne Westwood on the Art of Dressing, Costume, and More
Halloween, a holiday rooted in the transformative powers of fashion, is just around the corner. Perhaps no one is more aware of those powers offered by the clothes and the craft than Dame Vivienne Westwood.
She is one of fashion’s greatest, most fearless nonconformists. She’s built an empire with her subversive, statement-making approach to clothing. Her work has been iconized in the Victoria and Albert Museum numerous times, and to the untrained eye, her provocative creations, with their swags of fabric and specific historical references, might be interpreted as costume. (The masses have certainly adapted Westwood’s ideas, from her punk rock phase to her Anglophilia collection from 2003, for the purpose of costume.) But the true meaning of Westwood isn’t necessarily the outer layer, it’s what lies beneath the taffeta, Harris Tweed, and tartan. It’s in her soul.
Here, she sheds light on the power of fashion, as well as the art of dressing from within, and, in honor of her newly released autobiography, reflects on her lifetime in the industry.
Where do you draw the line between fashion as an expression or costume and art? Where do you think they intersect?
Fashion is an applied art; it is life-enhancing and part of civilization. But true art is an imitation, an imaginative illusion, a whole thing. I tend not to call fashion art. But on the other hand, art is a craft and fashion is a craft. In fact, in art, if you don’t have any techniques, then self-expression is not possible. If the tradition is broken, you have to find some technique to replace it. This is the same for fashion—you cannot get rid of technique, because you’ve got the bodies and you’ve got the stitches and you can’t disregard those. You have to understand how to manipulate material for the effect that you’re after.
A lot of people love Halloween because they dress up like someone they wish they could be. Do you feel fashion offers you the power to be who you want to be?
Fashion is a way to dress. There are other ways to dress that aren’t fashion, they are to do with sucking up things and looking like a clone. How I understand fashion is it’s an exciting way to dress and express oneself—it tells people who you are, it makes you interesting. What’s most important is that you should wear what suits you and wear it over and over. My motto is: Buy less, choose well, make it last. What I think my clothes give people is the power to make them feel sexy. But what is even more important is that they talk about the body in a way that makes you stand out. There is a form to it all, a relation between you and what you are wearing.
You have always been greatly admired for your unique and original look, both in the way you dress and the way you design. It seems to come from within. Tell me about where that comes from…
The only way to be original or find ideas is by looking at what people did in the past. You can’t be original by just wanting to do something. Nothing comes from a vacuum. It is impossible to be creative unless you have a link with the past and tradition. You cannot merely have a desire to create something and attempt to do it without learning from the techniques of the past. However, this is true for any discipline and not just fashion. Nobody can create a symphony or dance a ballet without studying the knowledge of the past in that particular art. You should constantly try to understand the world in which you live from the perspective of the way people saw things in the past. There’s an understanding that you get from this.
I know that the term eccentric is not one you like to describe yourself. How would you describe your look?
I am the center of my look. The important thing in my life is that I want to understand the world I live in. My clothes have always been heroic, whether it’s a latex negligee or a corseted ball gown. First you have to know who you are—or want to be. Then you have to use your clothes to tell your personal story. And be confident. I’ve never worried about what other people think of me. You have to cut a figure. Step off the treadmill of fashion.
Do the clothes make the person, or does the person make the clothes?
What really matters to me is the person who is chic, she knows herself, doesn’t buy into mass consumerism, and takes the trouble to find out about the world she lives in. This shows her to be generous yet discriminating, and wishing to gain from her experience in life.
You have created many costumes—for the ballet, for example—throughout the course of your career. In your opinion, what is the key to making a great costume?
We have designed costumes for many ballets and operas. Designing for a ballet dancer, for example, is very different, as they have to be able to move more freely in the clothes. The most recent costume we designed was for the opera singer Joyce DiDonato as Alcina in Handel’s opera. She is a witch and turns people into animals on her island. The dress we designed helps to tell her story and the loss of her power over her lover. The dress is in three parts and comes more and more undone. It’s in a dirty sea green and anthracite with a fish-scale motif outlined in silver. Joyce really goes for it.
Your new book just came out. As you take time to reflect on your life, how do you feel your approach to fashion has changed over the years?
The fact is that the credibility of doing my fashion over time has given me a voice. I have always tried to hijack my fashion, to make political statements. I currently want to make people aware of how our planet is run. Everyone is talking about the end of capitalism together with how we transfer to a post-carbon economy. The answer is simple: What’s good for the planet is good for people. If you hold onto this perspective, then you can work everything out for yourself, even down to the detail—know what you should do. Everything is connected.
Read More >>
Rihanna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Alessandra Ambrosio keep it sultry and simple for AmfAR. Before hitting the AmfAR gala last night in L.A., Gwyneth Paltrow posted a pic to Instagram (with a caption that read, “I don’t pop [pills] I rock Tom Ford”) that showed off her center-parted pony and black TF tux that boasted a […]
Read More >>
Fishing Hot Spots Pro USA Digital Map and Fishing Chip provides unmatched detail for your bow-mounted chartplotter or handheld GPS unit. This video is a overview of what to expect from the electronic maps that are on this chip
Read More >>
Remy Drabkin grew where new winemakers were developing the nascent Oregon wine industry. She knew too she would one day become a young Oregon winemaker.
Read More >>
Make your next outdoor hiking or camping experience a success by knowing what to bring. Throughout Oregon and Washington, the BLM has hundreds of campsites, hiking trails, fishing holes, lakes and rivers for boating, and land for hunting. Regardless of your recreational interests, the BLM wants you to be safe and know the 10 essentials. […]
Read More >>
Learn how to apply jazz guitar theory to spice up your country lead guitar playing in this video .
Read More >>
Budgeting in general can be tough. There are your regular, non-negotiable expenses like food and shelter, plus your important add-ons, like retirement savings or paying off those college loans. And while it can feel like there is no wiggle room in your budget to save more, here are my tips on scrimping those pennies and […]
Learn how to make chocolate doughnuts at home with this easy Recipes for doughnuts. Made with a tasty malt dusting, these doughnuts also come with a naughty chocolate ganache filling as an alternative of the standard jam. You’ll need fresh yeast for this recipe, which you can purchase from the baking section of most supermarkets. […]Read More >>
Kylie Jenner’s plump pout caused a stir on social media, but instead of asking if those bee-stung lips—a trademark of beauties like Scarlett Johansson and Angelina Jolie—are real or faux, we just want to know how to get them. Here, four steps to a more voluptuous mouth from makeup artist Vincent Oquendo: Amp up your […]Read More >>
DIY decor projects. With our easy DIY projects, see how to make a window shade, fix up furniture, reinvent accessories, and get more decorating ideas for your home.Read More >>
Rihanna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Alessandra Ambrosio keep it sultry and simple for AmfAR. Before hitting the AmfAR gala last night in L.A., Gwyneth Paltrow posted a pic to Instagram (with a caption that read, “I don’t pop [pills] I rock Tom Ford”) that showed off her center-parted pony and black TF tux that boasted a […]Read More >>
Close encounter Northern Alberta bear hunt
Halloween, a holiday rooted in the transformative powers of fashion, is just around the corner. Perhaps no one is more aware of those powers offered by the clothes and the craft than Dame Vivienne Westwood. She is one of fashion’s greatest, most fearless nonconformists. She’s built an empire with her subversive, statement-making approach to clothing. […]Read More >>