Every year, my invitation to the Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art gets lost in the mail. It’s such a shame, because I would wear a real costume to match the party theme, instead of one of the generically pretty designer dresses that so many guests fall back on. Remember the superhero-themed gala in 2008? Everyone wore strapless. How the fuck was that superhero-worthy?
This year’s exhibit is “Punk: Chaos to Couture.” I’ve been fascinated by punk since it emerged in the late ’70s (though I’m just a poseur myself) and it has never lost its appeal for me. You can see punk’s impact all over my WENDYB by Wendy Brandes jewelry line, with its Épater-la-bourgeoisie-style “Screw You” and IDGAF message jewelry.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the invitees are bewildered. “No one has a clue,” said my old friend Cameron Silver, whose Los Angeles-based vintage store Decades has provided me with all kinds of interesting clothes over the years. “We keep running into the same problem, which is that rich women don’t want to look punk, or grunge,” Cameron told the Times. “Not that many women want to look like Nancy Spungen.” Revered New York Times fashion reporter Cathy Horyn couldn’t even come up with any punk-worthy jewelry (and, yes, I tweeted, emailed and called her with all of my offerings, to no avail. I’m sad that she’s missing out).
I know exactly what I would wear. A few people have guessed Adam Ant, but I wouldn’t repeat an outfit for a big event like this. I was, however, thrilled to read that the few real punk t-shirts the Met has on display are from his collection. Love you, Adam!
Nope, my Met Gala inspiration would be punk goddess Wendy O. Williams (initials spell W.O.W. for good reason!) from the Plasmatics. Wendy’s signature looks included a mohawk and nipple tape.
Sometimes she opted for nipple weaponry instead.
A lot of recent pop stars have been inspired by Wendy O.’s nipple swag. Pink, Rihanna and Lady Gaga have all done nipple tape or a tape look. I happily bought a nipple-tape concert t-shirt at one of Gaga’s shows in 2010.
Beyonce’s sequin-nipple bodysuit by The Blonds is a clever take on the concept: covering nipples with more nipples! And nipple weaponry is still a thing: Gaga shoots flames out of her breasts, while Katy Perry prefers whipped cream. But has any one of these ladies given us hot nipple fashion while blowing up cars onstage or taking a chainsaw to a guitar? I think not! There are some great Plasmatics performance clips complete with chainsaw online, but if exploding school buses smashing through walls of television sets are more your style, don’t miss the 1982 video for the Plasmatics’ song, “The Damned.”
Obviously, my Wendy O. Williams costume for the Met Gala would require a nearly nude look. Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci did nude catsuits for the Paris National Opera Ballet.
I’d need to remove the white lace from the front so that it wouldn’t distract from my black nipple tape.
I’ve already got black leather bikini bottoms …
… and I have a choice of over-the-knee boots. I’ve got “patent leather” thigh highs from Trash and Vaudeville and a suede pair, but I’d go with the leather ones because they best match the bikini bottom.
I’d prefer to create a mohawk from my own hair — and it would be time to do some bleaching — but if I couldn’t get the desired height, I’d be okay with a headpiece like this one from the punk capsule collection at Moda Operandi (Why is my jewelry not in that collection? Shoulda been.)
Obviously, I’d be covered in my own jewelry. I’m spoiled for choice when it comes to that! But, for a change, the jewelry wouldn’t be my most important accessory. The chainsaw would definitely steal the show.
I would need to spray-paint that chainsaw because red wouldn’t work with the rest of my ensemble. Do you think it would be a problem getting it through the metal detector? I’d just say it was my purse, I guess.
Wendy O. Williams once said:
“Basically, I hate conformity. I hate people telling me what to do. It makes me want to smash things. So-called normal behavior patterns make me so bored, I could throw up!”
Sadly, Wendy isn’t around to projectile vomit over the idea of Metropolitan Museum co-opting punk. She committed suicide by shooting herself in the head 15 years and one month ago today. She was 48 years old, and it was her third effort to end her life. Her partner and one-time manager, Rod Swenson aka Captain Kink, said Wendy found it hard to live a normal life past her prime, though she did love rehabilitating wildlife near their Connecticut home. The obituary for Wendy in Rolling Stone included a quote from an interview she gave the magazine in 1981:
“…the essence of what we do is shaking up the middle class; I think if you don’t do that with your music, you’re just adding to the noise pollution.”
How great would it be if even one person showed up at the Met Gala with the intention of shaking things up? Someone who’d rip some clothes off the mannequins, overturn a few tables and step on Anna Wintour’s foot? That would make it the party of the year for real. Please, somebody! Do it for Wendy O.!