Vivienne Westwood’s most iconic designs from her reign as queen of British fashion
Dame Vivienne Westwood died this week aged 81, surrounded by loved ones at her home in Clapham.
The designer leaves a huge hole in the creative world, with her impact spanning music and film and bringing punk and new-wave fashion to the mainstream.
Starting her career with a King’s Road boutique called SEX on the King’s Road, Westwood styled then-husband Malcolm McLaren’s band The Sex Pistols in the ’70s, giving her offbeat designs a worldwide stage.
It wasn’t until 1981 that Vivienne debuted her first collection on the catwalk, and she really came into her own as the seasons went by.
The name Westwood went on to become synonymous with historical garments given an ironic twist, along with heritage fabrics like Harris Tweed and tartan.
She’s even credited with inventing the ‘mini-crini’ – a structured skirt in a modern, daring length that celebrated fashion liberation while honouring the work of greats like Lacroix.
After over 50 years in the industry, Vivienne Westwood will be remembered for her environmental campaigning, outspoken creative approach, and championing of sustainable manufacturing.
But it would be remiss not to acknowledge the incredible clothes she designed too.
Here’s a look back at Vivienne Westwood’s most iconic looks through the years.
The punk look we know today was partly a creation of Vivienne Westwood, who reworked bondage gear with tartan and iconoclastic images.
Pamela Rooke, known as Jordan, was a model whose look defined this period, pictured here sporting a straitjacket from Westwood and McLaren’s Seditionaries boutique (later known as Sex).
Through the years, Vivienne’s style evolved from androgynously punky to provocative and feminine, which the designer said ‘parodied the upper class’.
Corsets became a signature for Westwood, with the AW90 Portrait collection featuring boned pieces emblazoned with the works of Boucher.
Sara Stockbridge was one of Westwood’s muses, with her supermodel stature and playful attitude encompassing the brand perfectly.
One of the most memorable pieces made by the fashion hero has to be Carrie Bradshaw’s wedding dress from the Sex and the City movie.
Famously, Carrie tries the dress on in a shoot for Vogue, Vivienne Westwood gifts it to her, and she wears it to be jilted by Mr Big in the most spectacular style.
The voluminous bridal gown was made available to purchase on Net-a-Porter, and sold out in a matter of hours.
Speaking of pop culture moments that’ll go down in history, Vivienne Westwood also designed the suit Amy Winehouse wore to her paparazzi-swarmed trial in 2009.
Amy always suited the designer’s retro cuts, and chose this hyperfeminine yet demure suit for the extensively photographed court appearance.
Vivienne Westwood’s eye for detail was unmatched, and the mid 1990s were her time to shine.
Collections in this era gave a sense of edge to traditional garments like cardigans and pussy bow blouses, with exposed nipples and Marie Antionette hairstyles poking fun at the staid, stuffy aristocracy.
Her menswear has also been a triumph. What more can we say except wow.
Despite first debuting her Buffalo Collection in the mid 1980s, the western-inspired pieces have remained staples among fashion’s trailblazers.
The large cowboy-style hat she first designed for rap group The World’s Famous Supreme Team, for example, had its time to shine again when Pharrell Williams made it his signature look in the ’00s.
On of the people who seemed to just ‘get’ Helena Bonham Carter’s unique aesthetic was Vivienne Westwood.
The nymphlike taffeta is offset with ruffled silk that looks like it came from a period drama – and of course there was never a shortage of flattering corsetry.
After Vivienne Westwood’s passing, presenter Fearne Cotton recalled how the Dame wore a ‘huge penis brooch’ at Windsor Castle.
Irreverence was the name of the game for her, and the phallic symbol was a regular feature in her work.
Like Helena Bonham Carter, it seems like some people were born to wear Vivienne’s clothes – just like FKA Twigs.
The British artist looks like a Pre-Raphealite painting in this bold corset, while loose fabrics, jewellery, and loose fitting trousers tone down the formality.
Rihanna looks great in everything, but one look we’ll remember forever was at the Victoria’s Secret show in 2012 where the Bajan singer performed hit song Diamonds.
In a lesson in how to dress women’s bodies right, Priyanka Chopra wore this asymmetrical lilac suit by Vivienne Westwood to Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding.
Sharp tailoring meets figure hugging and accentuating the wearer’s curves, while folds and ruffles add intrigue.
Vivienne Westwood lived her work, emblazoning her pieces with messages of social justice and change.
And that work will live on as her legacy. But things will undoubtedly never be the same.
Thank you, Dame Westwood, for your services to the world of fashion, and for fighting for the causes you held dear until your last days.
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