In the world of blogging, trackbacks and pingbacks are a good thing. Both are the same type of comment in which a link has been created to a person’s blog post from an external website, thus allowing a reciprocal link to that website to be created. In a real-life explanation, I posted a blog titled “Learning From the Past,” and a website selling clothing and jewelry inspired by Vivienne Westwood created a pingback to my blog post. The site in question contains a shortened version of her surname, but my mind immediately read “Vivienne Westwood” when I checked the site out.
Normally, a pingback is an amazing thing to be given, but I admit I was confused by this clothing company creating not one, but five, pingbacks to my blog post. I could not find any direct link between this clothing line and my blog about sexual health, sexual issues, and other taboo topics. For this reason, I labeled all the pingbacks as spam and thought little about it, until I was stuck in traffic on my drive home.
I began to wonder about Vivienne Westwood and if she had any connection to my blog topics, so I did a little research. I discovered she is a famous fashion designer with some direct and much indirect influence on certain aspects of our sexuality today. I personally admire women who encourage others to be strong and to achieve greatness, which is one reason I really wanted to write about Westwood and her connections to our sexuality.
Much of the information below is a combination of information found in Vogue magazine, New Statesman magazine, and biography.com with some material taken from Westwood’s autobiography, which published in October 2014, and from Encyclopedia Britannica.
Dame Vivienne Westwood was born Vivienne Isabel Swire in Glossop, Derbyshire, England, on April 8, 1941. She and her parents moved to London in 1958. Westwood took a jewelry-making class at the Harrow School of Art, which is where she became fascinated with fashion. A brief marriage to Derek Westwood in 1962 produced son Ben, who is now a photographer of eroticism. Shortly after her marriage ended in 1965, she met Malcolm McLaren, an art student who was five years her junior. In 1967, the couple had a son, Joseph “Joe” Corré, who founded British lingerie retailer Agent Provocateur in 1994. The retailer is still in business today with stores around the world.
“I didn’t want Malcolm at first, but I did in fact end up getting pregnant by him,” is how Westwood famously tells the story of her second child. According to newstatesman.com, Westwood recalled she was “on her way to get an abortion when she had a change of mind and spent the money on a cashmere sweater instead.”
In 1971, McLaren opened a boutique shop featuring Westwood’s creations at 430 King’s Road. The shop, originally called Let It Rock, changed names five times, but proved to be an important fashion center for the punk movement. In 1974, Westwood renamed the shop Sex. The spirit of this time in Westwood’s life is portrayed by a photograph of Westwood with Chrissie Hynde, the American musician and leader of rock band The Pretenders, with their bare behinds embellished with red letters spelling out “SEX.”
In 1975, McLaren brought together four unknown musicians and formed the Sex Pistols, an English punk band. Westwood’s designs dressed the band and helped carve out the band’s identity. During the band’s first American tour in January 1978, John Lyndon, the lead singer known as Johnny Rotten, walked offstage at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, causing the band to dissolve. McLaren would experience dissolution on a more personal level as well. Some sources site 1979 and others 1983 as the year when Westwood ended her relationship with McLaren, claiming she had “lost interest in him intellectually.” The Sex Pistols would eventually re-unite, but McLaren and Westwood would not. McLaren died in 2010, leaving nothing in his will to either Westwood or their son Joe.
After her break-up with McLaren, Westwood’s creativity in fashion design soared. She would later make famous the jersey tube shirt, the pirate boot, and the stretch corset. The last of these is ever-present in lingerie shops and catalogs worldwide. In 1992, Westwood was made an Order of the British Empire and collected the award, sans knickers, from Queen Elizabeth.
In 1993, Westwood married for a second time, to her then assistant Andreas Kronthaler, who is 25 years her junior. Today, Krothaler is her design partner and the couple still resides in South London.
In January 2003, Westwood created controversy when she sent men wearing fake breasts down a catwalk during one of her fashion shows. The men were wearing the fake breasts underneath cashmere sweaters and polo necks.
In 2006, Westwood advanced to Dame Commander of the British Empire.
Some of Westwood’s designs were featured in the 2008 film adaptation of the television series “Sex and the City.” The most famous piece in the film is the wedding dress worn by character Carrie Bradshaw.
Never shy of controversy, Westwood has openly complained about the lack of style in society. “People have never looked so ugly as they do today, regarding their dress,” Westwood told journalists in 2012 after her spring/summer 2013 Red Label show in London. For this same show, Westwood created a T-shirt in support of Julian Assange, the Australian journalist and publisher who co-founded WikiLeaks in 2006, and gave the shirts to front-row guests to wear during the show.
Now 73, Westwood is still creating fashion and, apparently, does continue to have a few connections to sexual and taboo topics. Her contribution of the stretch corset to fashion changed the look and feel of lingerie for millions of women, and, for this, I am ever grateful to Westwood. My apologies to the Dame for my ignorance last week. I will make up for it by buying a book about her from the half dozen or so available during my next sex book shopping trip.