In the early 1970s, punk fashion was landing in London and the angry, out-there and audacious styles of this political and personal punk era were set to take off.
Malcolm McLaren and his fashion designer girlfriend, the iconic Vivienne Westwood, were trailblazers in new designs, fresh ideas and invigorating looks. They were taking over the city, and the Sex Pistols were to music, what Westwood and McLaren were to fashion.
As Pistol – the new Disney+ show about the Sex Pistols lights up our screens, costume designer Liza Bracey reveals how we can rock the look.
1. Accessorize with whatever you have
For Bracey, the authenticity and beauty of punk styling is all about the details.
“It’s about being original and having your own ideas. Using things that aren’t clothing. That was the punk thing – taking other things and repurposing them as clothes, or adding things like safety pins, or even random Tic Tac lids and stuff.”
She found styling jackets with accessories like these both fun and challenging. “He [Johnny] had this pink jacket and there are syringes attached to it. There are lots of badges and safety pins and chains. My assistant did a lot of the accessories for him and he was looking at it going, ‘This is driving me insane, I cannot work out what he’s got on his shoulder’. I said, ‘That’s the white plastic top from a Tic Tac box’.”
Adding weird and wonderful elements to your outfit, be it a safety pin, chain, wrapper or badge, will elevate it to being far more original than just a high-street garment.
2. Big shapes, small legs
Inspiring much of the Nineties to Noughties indie sleaze era shape-wise, big clothes with thin legs emerging beneath them, were a definitive style feature of punk dress.
“You want to see skinny legs, even the men show these seemingly really thin legs. There was a lot of nudity in the shape of them,” notes Bracey.
If you don’t have thin legs, however, you can create the illusion that you do, by wearing bigger clothes on top to form this silhouette. You see this a lot in the big mohair jumpers of the Seventies.
3. Opt for vintage and recycled leather
Leather is a punk fashion staple, but many consumers now won’t buy it on ethical grounds, opting for vegan options instead.
However, Bracey feels this may not give the most authentic affect.
“You can use recycled leather, and things like that these days, which is much better than brand new. I’m always a little bit suspicious about pleather, because it uses oil.”
So, head to charity shops and vintage shops to find some old but gold leather to make your look more authentic.
4. Wear your morals on your sleeves
Punk is political. It is anarcho-communism in a lifestyle. It’s angry and disruptive, so a lot of punk looks come with badges and patches sharing political slogans or themes.
But, Bracey shares, “With the punks, it was really problematic, with a lot of swastikas. Lots of very dodgy iconography was used.”
Instead, have a look around for badges and stickers that align with your views.
5. Don’t be afraid to get a bit messy
A big mistake some people make when going for a more edgy punk-rock look is using clean, new items. This makes the look seem inauthentic, and can lose a lot of its grungy appeal.
Bracey had a tough time making stars like Maisie Williams look as messy as punk fashion requires, and make up spent a lot of time making them dirty. Trashing shoes and clothes, making them look worn and grubby for a fully authentic look.
So, avoid new items, go vintage or charity shopping, and pick items that aren’t brand new if the punk look is for you.