Tuesday, 30 July 2013


History can be an extremely important reference point for many designers, but none more so than for Vivienne Westwood. Renowned for her intellectual approach to fashion design, one of Westwood's tricks is to take tailoring techniques from the past and bring them firmly into the present and this, her A/W 1995 collection is a perfect example of her ability to seamlessly blend the old with the new. 

The collection provided social commentary from a number of different angles - the dresses themselves were padded both in the breasts of the corsets and the rear to emphasise the focus on those specific areas of the female form. One corset was embellished entirely and decorated with two ruby nipples - a nod towards the more playful side of female sexuality. Westwood herself is no stranger to sexual imagery, having previously used fetishistic items such as gimp masks in ad campaigns for her previous collections, but the sexual references in 'Vive La Cocotte' were more erotic than crude. The one obvious point of reference for the collection's aesthetic is Marie Antoinette - the heavy white makeup, corseted waists, full skirts and powdered wigs were pure French Revolution glamour and were the perfect example of the one thing that Westwood does better than any other - excess.

The collection was also heavily inspired by France, a country that Westwood had explored in various of levels of detail throughout her previous five collections. The exaggerated breasts almost seemed to be based upon the iconic silhouette that had become synonymous with enfant terrible Jean-Paul Gaultier, whereas the extreme aesthetic of high heels, full skirts and miniscule waists were similar in ways to the couture presentations of Thierry Mugler. 
The collection would go on to become one of Westwood's more critically-acclaimed, proving that she could do classic glamour as well as controversial punk. The collection is also one of my personal favourites as it combines the opulence of couture with a strong reference point and consistently jaw-dropping outfits. Westwood has always been a trailblazer, whether it be in terms of social advancement or the fashion world, but for this collection it was refreshing to see the designer focus more on a genuinely stunning aesthetic than a controversial political message.

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