My TONY Subscription Is Stressing Me Out: Chaos To Couture At The Met

ChaosToCoutureTo see why TONY is stressing me out, look here.

Back in high school, being cool was pretty important to me. I hung out with the kids who skateboarded. I had stupid hair and I was the first person I knew of to have a tongue ring (which BTW, ended up costing me seven thousand dollars in dental work. I know my father enjoys the slightest bit of satisfaction over this) but certainly, the kind of music you were into at the time, was a huge factor in determining how interesting you were.

So figured I better like punk rock.

Don’t get me wrong. I genuinely did, and still do to this day, like a lot of punk music. I love the clothes, even if I don’t wear them, and I’ve always been a rooter for the underdog so the anti-establishment attitude that punk purveys, speaks to me. But for sure I used to insinuate that I knew a LOT more about punk rock than I actually did. I mean like, this totally would have been me back in 1994.

So when TONY told me that the Metropolitan Museum Of Art was having an exhibit about punk fashion, I thought perfect! Maybe I can finally learn something to repeat at parties so that I’m not such a poser anymore.

Plus! My brother’s friend Rochelle, who I have pretty much developed an online love affair with since being introduced to her via Facebook eight months ago, was coming into town. Choosing Chaos To Couture as the backdrop for our first date was going to score me some major cool points.

This is how it went:


After changing my outfit four times, I arrived to the museum in true Kelly fashion, an hour early. No biggie. I figured I’d get our tickets ahead of time since the line to get in rivaled a Shake Shack’s during lunch hour.

The suggested donation was twenty-five dollars. This seemed borderline insane to me. Aren’t museums what you do when you’re broke? If I had money I’d be at a fifteen dollar movie with a ten dollar dollar bucket of popcorn, not an institution of higher learning. Plus, it’s the goddamn Met, like where they have all those fancy galas with benefactors and stuff. It’s like the epitome of stuffy white people. Do they not get millions of dollars in donations every year or am I completely talking out of my ass? It seemed a little ballsy to ask for twenty-five dollars but I honestly want some feedback here because I only gave them ten and don’t know whether or not to feel like a dick about it.

But ANYWAY, I decided to occupy my time waiting for Rochelle by meandering around the paintings from the middle ages. I guess if I learned anything at all it’s that art bores the fuck out of me, so when I finally found a bar I was pretty excited to take a break from all of this culture.

This was the best part of the museum yet and when Rochelle showed up we spent our first hour together drinking and eating artisanal cheeses. It turns out that Rochelle used to be a real live punk kid herself which was great for this story because I don’t really know what the hell I’m talking about when it comes to the punk movement outside of the absolute basics. Having her along for the ride would add some credibility to my story.


In fact, to be honest, I would have been happy to spend the rest of the evening sipping wine and dipping my bread into the lavender honey that came with our cheese plate but I didn’t want to come off as a total alchie so after we were done with our drinks I suggested we move on to the exhibit.

Immediately upon entering and trying to take a photo of Sarah Jessica Parker in this weird mock mohawk thing, I was told that pictures weren’t allowed.


I found that to be kind of funny at a punk show but I’m a rebel so I took a bunch anyway.


I don’t know what I was expecting, but something about seeing all of this punk gear neatly lined up and put on display was instantly off-putting. Just look at how it’s described in the opening placard:

While the punk ethos might seem at odds with the couture ethos of made-to-measure, both are defined by the same impulses of originality and individuality. If anything, the punk ethos of do-it-yourself results in fashions that exist almost beyond couture in their singularity and inimitability.

Um, what?

I might not know much, but I’m willing to bet that if you asked the vast majority of kids who were actually immersed in the punk scene about their ethos, they would say what the fuck is an ethos? This is not to say that they were stupid, but rather I’m assuming this isn’t the language with which they communicated.

Oh and I love how they’re almost patting themselves on the back for even suggesting that anything could exist even beyond couture. Right away I was turned off.

I could tell Rochelle felt the same way. This was her in 1995 so I was interested in what she had to say about it.


“When our clothes looked like this it was because we wore them over and over and over again. It was dirty, it smelled bad, it wasn’t attractive. It was distasteful. Looking at this I’m getting the same stomach turning feeling that we hoped to instill on society.”



At one point there was a replica of a CBGB’s bathroom.

But like, why?

I understand the want to convey how gritty the aesthetic was, but a bathroom? This looks like a number of places I still go to right now, yet they painstakingly crafted their vision down to the trash littered on the floor. Then a bunch of artsy types in thick rimmed glasses stood around observing it and going Ah…I see.

See what? It’s a bathroom!

Rochelle was ahead of me as we moved into the next installment. “Oh my God, it gets worse.”

She wasn’t kidding.


Two hallways filled with exquisitely tailored punk “trash” with Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten playing on screens in the background.

Punks appropriated objects from the basest of ontexts such as tampons and lavatory chains, but they favored articles associated with trash and consumer culture, often as an ironic statement of the political and economic conditions of the times. Continuing this tradition, the designers featured in this gallery-Gareth Pugh, Helmut Lang, John Galliano, Miuccia Prada, Franco Moschino and Alexander McQueen-are recognized for their recycling of old elements in the formation of new fashions…In allowing fashion to embrace the ephemeral and the everyday, they offer a reappraisal of the definition of value as promoted by large luxury fashion brands.

I’m having a hard time understanding the connection here. If anything, I felt like the narrative was condescending. Forget that everything these designers represent is exactly what the punk movement was railing against, wealth, luxury and exclusivity, but now they are trying to say that they are similar because the fashion lines recycled old elements and offered a reappraisal of the definition of value. Well yeah, in that the couture “garbage” cost thousands of dollars.


Is this a joke?

This just made me cringe. I almost had to laugh at the irony. Does high fashion and the culture surrounding it not know that they are the exact kind of “establishment” that the anti-establishment sentiment of the punk culture was set against? And now here they are, trying to get in on the action, with their very own “fuck you” to the world. What exactly is couture rebelling against? Aside from commoners that is.

At the end of the day Rochelle mentioned that the most punk thing about the whole exhibit was the weird alarm that kept going off every thirty seconds however, we ultimately ended up questioning whether or not it was sounding because a door had been accidentally opened.


Oh. And they were selling skateboards in the gift shop.

In retrospect, Time Out did say that this was going to be a a couture take on punk styles, so there was nothing there that shouldn’t have been expected. I just guess when you see it up close, with the celebrities at the Met gala in their cheeky rock outfits and the mannequins in the exhibit in their plaid cutoffs accented by sterling silver studded belts, it’s almost as if it’s a mockery of what punk was all about in the first place.

So I guess if you’ve got fifteen minutes and nothing better to do, come check out what would normally be a bunch of really overpriced bullshit, only with videos of Sid Vicious playing in the background to make it punk themed and an alarm bell that keeps going off, unless they’ve closed the door by now.


Then go to Prohibition on the upper west side for drinks like Rochelle and I did to try and forget how completely obnoxious everything you just saw was.

Also, this is really funny and if it were real, would make about as much sense as the exhibit did.

  • Lisa

    Kinda felt nostalgic for Korova Milk Bar with some of those photos though. VERY odd to see a replica of CBGB’s bathroom. As if our life was so bizarre it needed to be put behind glass and displayed for the fancy schmancy folks to study, like we were animals. Uncomfortable.

  • Rochelle Migliore

    You’re hilarious, great job on the post :) The tagline for the exhibit could be, “Giving everyone an opportunity to feel like an asshole”. Prohibition is a great place to go afterward to forget how badly you want to take a shower in boiling hot acid. I really had such a blast with you!

  • Kelly

    I’m really glad you liked it. I struggled with this one because I’m not always sure what the hell I’m talking about. Mostly, I just went on how it made me feel. It was good to have you there to reinforce that. Especially because you’re someone who knows what you’re talking about. I had so much fun! I wish you lived here!

  • Gabriele

    When you have lived something..or at least tried to live it…and you see how it is interpreted…and you find yourself saying.. “What? It wasn’t like that at all…or not quite like that..” It makes you wonder how accurate other information via the media or such actually is. Does that make sense? And who wrote those placards? What drugs were they on? Or were they written by alleged artistic quasi intellectuals whose statements are not questioned, and you don’t have a clue as to what they are saying! Funny article. Although I don’t understand Punk, I understand Hippie. No, I wasn’t a true Hippie, but I did experience the time period of the Hippie, and tried to get somewhat involved, (but I couldn’t give up my make up and hair rollers and I wouldn’t run naked at Woodstock…had I been there.) so I get what you’re saying. Keep on writing…you have a fun and interesting take on things.

    • Kelly

      I think the problem is that they weren’t on drugs. Thanks mommy!

  • Kathleen Neves

    I totally know what you mean. A few years back, there was a special Vivienne Westwood exhibit at the de Young museum here in San Francisco. Of course it was an additional $20 fee to the regular price admission of the rest of the museum. It was a weird mix of museum trying oh so hard to be punk. I loved seeing all of her fashions over the years on display, from the early London street style to the catwalks in Paris. I mean, it was awesome to see Vivienne Westwood originals on display while listening to the Sex Pistols.

    The gift shop was certainly overpriced, but I couldn’t resist buying the Vivienne Westwood: 34 Years in Fashion book. It was just too cool.

    • Kelly

      I feel like I totally would have appreciated something like what you went to see much more. The original, rather than conjured up comments on a specific vision of what punk was, would have been way more interesting. This felt exactly like what you said, trying too hard to be cool (not that I can’t relate to that) but come on, your the Met for god’s sake, not Coney Island High. (Total name drop there to prove that I do know at least some of what I’m talking about, and I didn’t even google that shit)

  • Patricia Sullivan

    One dollar……….don’t give them a penny more! The Met is probably the richest museum in the world.
    I am going to see the show but everybody that has seen it echoes pretty much what you said.
    Did they have any Vivienne Westwood? I love her, If they don’t have any of her pieces, then this is pretentious shit.
    How I wish the Alexander McQueen show could have become a part of the permanent collection. One of the best exhibits I have seen anywhere.

    • Kelly

      Oh I’m glad you said something! Good, now I feel better. I mean there I was about to buy two tickets and I’m like that makes me out fifty bucks! For a day at a museum!

      Yes, they had some work by Vivienne Westwood, which I now feel like I want to learn more about because at first I just lumped her in with the rest of the designers in my head and when one placard said something about punk fashion originating in her studio I was like Ha! What? But the more comments I’m getting, it seems like she was more of a true influence throughout, rather than making her mark after the fact like the rest of them. And I know Alexander McQueen was a more genuine contributor I guess, than say Prada. Hmmm, maybe I am learning something here. I need to find a party to go to so I can impress everyone with all my fancy knowledge now!

      Let me know what you think after you see it.

  • chip

    the NYC museums are currently being sued for not being clear on the “suggested donation” policy.

    its only appropriate that the punk themed clothing is made by designers in the exhibit and the exhibit contains the CBGB bathroom which is now inside a john varvatos store.

  • Kelly

    Haha! Yes! Good observation. And thanks for the heads up about the museum lawsuit. I feel better now about not giving the full amount after hearing from some readers.

  • chip
  • Kelly

    Did I just read that they have a rent free lease?? Now I’m pissed that I even gave ten.

  • George

    Could you have really been that naïve in high school to think you needed to like certain music or dress a particular way to be cool? You had long blond hair and big tits. You could have hung out with whatever popular click you wanted to.

  • Gabriele

    George is so deep. 😉

  • Kelly

    If only I was trying to be cool in a cheerleader type way. I wanted more the mysterious rebel, which works so well when your natural voice is four octaves higher than Gilbert Godfried’s.

  • Charlotte

    Thanks for saving me $25! (and by $25, I mean $10. There’s no way I would donate more than that. Even the tornado victims are only asking for $10) the problem with fashion is that by the time the designers take their “inspiration” to the runway aka copy what the poor kids are doing and ask to be paid gazillions for it, they lose sight of the whole point behind the movements. i used to work for a designer but changed careers pretty quickly because I couldnt handle how seriously everyone takes themselves.

    • Kelly

      So is that really the norm in fashion? I’m clueless, do designers usually garner inspiration from what the kids are doing these days? I mean certainly in this instance, that is the case.