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Denisa Šútorová
December 28, 2022, 6:45pm
Reading time: 5:49

She Visited Elizabeth II. Not Wearing Panties, She Was Named A Lady Anyway. Read How Vivienne Westwood Changed The World

Alongside Stella McCartney, she lobbied the British government to ban the retail sale of furs, and drove to the home of then Prime Minister David Cameron in a tank.

Denisa Šútorová
December 28, 2022, 6:45pm
Reading time: 5:49
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Vivienne Westwood fashion icon, rebel, lady, British fashion designer and activist who played a key role in the punk movement, died December 29th, at the age of 81.

She died at her home in south London and passed away peacefully, surrounded by her family, according to a statement from her team. “Vivienne continued to do the things she loved until the very end, designing, working on her art, writing a book and changing the world for the better. She led a wonderful life. Her innovations and influence over the past 60 years have been immense and will continue into the future," the fashion icon's team shared on Instagram. In the article you will read about the most important moments from the life of the legend.


Source: Getty Images/Francois G. Durand


She had no fashion education and never thought that she could succeed in the art world


Vivienne Westwood was born in the village of Tintwistle in 1941 and moved to London in 1957, where she attended the Harrow Art School, but only for one semester. "I didn't know how a working-class girl like me could make a living in the art world," she said.


It will probably surprise you that even before Vivienne began to devote herself fully to fashion, she worked in a factory and later graduated as an educator and a primary school teacher. However, she was increasingly drawn to fashion design. She created her own jewellery collection, which she sold on London's Portobello Road, and taught herself how to construct and cut clothes using clothes she bought secondhand.


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A post shared by Vivienne Westwood (@viviennewestwood)


From a primary school teacher to the Sex Pistols' court designer

While working as a teacher, Vivienne also acquired the surname Westwood as she married Derek Westwood, who worked as a factory worker. As it turned out later, Westwood was not Vivienne's love of fate. Malcolm McLaren, the manager of the legendary punk group Sex Pistols, changed her life from the ground up. Together they opened a boutique at 430 Kings Road in 1971, where they planned a fashion revolution that would change the world.


Source: Getty Images/David M. Benett



McLaren was the son of a prostitute and was raised by an eccentric grandmother who lived by the motto "to be bad is to be good and to be good is just boring". With its unrestrained nature, McLaren was a creative awakening for Vivienne. It was he who introduced her to art and music and opened the door to the world of fashion. Also thanks to McLaren, with whom she later had a child, she was able to dress punk stars, including the mentioned Sex Pistols.


The punk goddess who "silenced" the British queen

Controversial and often provocative designs laid the foundations of punk aesthetics. Her style combined classic fashion with a touch of romance, history and bold political references. Vivienne believed that punk was more than fashion. She saw it as a political movement whose goal was revolution.


Source: Sex Pistols, Vivienne Westwood


Later, when the Sex Pistols' God Save The Queen reached number one in the NME charts, Vivienne's boutique was renamed Seditionaries to reflect the aesthetic of the then new subculture of punk rock. The composition itself, as well as T-shirts with the likeness of Queen Elizabeth II. caused a stir. The queen's mouth was pierced with a zicher, and on some models her eyes were covered by a swastika. The T-shirt questioning the English monarchy was created just at the time when the Queen was celebrating her silver jubilee.


The pirate collection turned her into a designer, appreciated even by David Bowie

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Westwood moved from dressing punk rockers to designs that parodied the upper social class. During what Vivienne called the New Romanticism and the Pagan Years, she presented her debut fashion show with McLaren. Launched in London, the unique Pirates collection was a huge success as it was a liberation from the silhouettes of the 70s. It firmly anchored the Vivienne Westwood brand in the fashion business and Vivienne officially became a designer.


The collection featured romantic looks, a predominantly orange and yellow palette, buccaneer pirate pants and oversized shirts with ruffled sleeves. Westwood's designs have won David Bowie, Spandau Ballet and Marc Bolan.


Underwear as clothing for casual wear

After both her collaboration and relationship with McLaren ended, Westwood continued to dominate the fashion world and build her identity as an independent designer. In addition to punk rock, she also created in the mini-crini style (crinoline on the thighs made of cotton and tweed), she was responsible for the creation of knitted dresses and tartan miniskirts.


But throughout her career, she always found a way to shock. With the corset, the Statue of Liberty from 1987 brought the trend of wearing underwear as day wear. Bondage pants and controversial jackets with a fascist swastika were explained by Vivienne as "sex translated into fashion that becomes a fetish".

She has never publicly commented on the depiction of the swastika. She herself is said to have taken it as a mockery of the monarchy, and the royal family never publicly commented on it.


Miley Cyrus, Princess Eugenie and Carrie Bradshaw love her

During her career, her empire focused on women's and men's fashion collections, producing shoes, glasses, scarves, ties, cosmetics and perfumes. While the first wedding dress she designed was her own in 1962 for her wedding to Derek Westwood, a little more famous is the model in which Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw was supposed to marry Mr. Big in the TV series Sex and the City.


Source: New Line Cinema, HBO


However, loyal clients and fans of the British designer also include Dita Von Teese, Miley Cyrus, Marion Cotillard and Princess Eugenie herself.

She went to visit the queen without panties, later she was given the title of lady

Throughout her career, Vivienne Westwood liked to "interpret" images from the British monarchy into her fashion. However, surprisingly, the monarchy did not take it to heart and in 1992 awarded Vivienne Westwood the Order of the British Empire. The designer received this honour from Queen Elizabeth II herself, but she probably wouldn't be herself if she hadn't caused a scandal.



She posed for photographers in front of Buckingham Palace, and when she made a turn, the whole world saw that Vivienne simply did not wear panties to visit the Queen. Despite this, in 2006, Westwood was again invited to visit the palace, where she received an even more important award and the title of Dame Commander (lady) of the British Empire.


Naomi Campbell walked the catwalk in killer heels, Kate Moss completely naked

As for memorable moments from her shows, few will forget the Fall-Winter 1993 show and Naomi Campbell's legendary fall. Vivienne Westwood put her in almost 23-centimeter heels, in which it was almost impossible to walk. Campbell took her fall with grace and laughed it off with gusto.


Source: Youtube/giocurve

At the show of the Erotic Zones collection for the spring-summer 1995 period, Kate Moss took care of the historical moment again, showing herself as Marie Antoinette topless while enjoying an ice cream. The audience was shocked, Westwood was satisfied.

Designer, rebel and activist

In addition to paving the way for many extravagant trends, Vivienne Westwood also used her influence to save the planet. During her lifetime, Westwood was not only a designer, but also a passionate climate activist. Politics and fashion went hand in hand in her mind.

In 2012, she launched the Climate Revolution to take action against disinterested political leaders and big business. Her clothes contained messages proclaiming freedom of speech, political slogans fighting against Brexit or global warming.


Source: Getty Images/Ollie Millington

In 2015, she caused a stir when she drove to the house of then Prime Minister David Cameron in a tank to protest against fracking (oil and gas extraction technique, editor's note). Alongside designer Stella McCartney, she lobbied the British government to ban the retail sale of fur.


Her husband was Austrian, the son is the owner of the brand Agent Provocateur

In 1993, Vivienne Westwood married her third and last husband, Andreas Kronthaler, her former student, 25 years younger. He became the creative director of her company and in later years was increasingly responsible for the brand's designs.


Source: Instagram/Andreas Kronthaler


However, her son Joseph Ferdinand Corré, who is the co-founder of the well-known underwear brand Agent Provocateur, continues in the designer footsteps of Vivienne, as well as activities related to activism.


Her message and lives on.



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Thumbnail: Getty Images/David M. Benett
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