Rewind to 2006. Yes, 2006, when the Sophia Coppola film Marie Antoinette was released in theaters. Featuring a post-punk/New Wave soundtrack of musicians like Adam & the Ants and Bow Bow Wow, the film combined 18th Century visuals with 1980s New Romantic sensibilities–excess, decadence, frills, and of course, style.
But many questioned the modern soundtrack set to a period piece. What do ’80s music and French royalty have in common? To some the connection wasn’t exactly clear, but to others of us it made sense, even if it we couldn’t put our finger on why. Then we revisited Adam & the Ants videos for songs like “Stand and Deliver” and “Prince Charming,” an effortless blend of period dress and post-punk magic. Suddenly it all gelled like the perfectly tousled strands of Adam Ant’s hair!
British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood was smack dab in the middle of the punk movement, thanks in part to her romantic and professional involvement with Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. The band wore clothes co-designed by Westwood and McLaren, and both Adam & The Ants and Bow Wow Wow (also under McLaren’s guidance) would later don garb designed by this dynamic duo.
And here’s where “Pirates” comes in…
Vivienne Westwood’s Squiggle Pattern
In 1981, Westwood and McLaren debuted their collection “Pirates” at a catwalk show that featured the Squiggle pattern among other designs (shown above). A first glance, the pattern may evoke a tribal vibe rather than a maritime one, an observation that isn’t out of line given the wildly primal nature of many of Westwood’s ensembles.
And “wild” played into the style of the punky romantics: One look at the paint-covered face and fabric-wrapped hair strands of Adam Ant circa 1981, and you get the sense he’s just stepped off a galleon looking toussled yet well-groomed after a lengthy raid and brawl. While the musician and style icon definitely put his own stamp on his ensembles (such as the hussar jacket he acquired then regularly donned), Vivienne Westwood designed attire for Ant and his bandmates, influencing his fashion choices for years to come.
Back to the beloved Squiggle pattern, which mirrors the curves of a nautical rope… this is one hot design. H-O-T. Try Googling “vivienne westwood squiggle,” and you’ll be greeted with an array of images, from a picture of Boy George wearing the Squiggle on his shirt, to present-day wallpaper and rain boots that bear the timeless motif. Click here for a wonderful article on the longevity of Westwood’s Squiggle. Maybe one day I’ll get my hands on an item featuring the pattern in some capacity.
Until then, let’s relive its hey-dey, courtesy of Bow Wow Wow drummer Dave Barbarossa and bassist Leigh Gorman (shown below):
The Pirate Look
But it wasn’t all about the fabric. Let’s not forget the costume-y element of Westwood and McLaren’s “Pirate” look, complete with hats fit for Blackbeard:
Thanks for joining us as we reveled in Vivienne Westwood’s Pirate lore. Her mark on the worlds of fashion and music is as wonderfully haunting as the Burundi rhythms that accompanied her 1981 fashion show.