JThe most anticipated fashion moment of her week wasn’t Brooklyn Beckham’s wedding finally appearing in Vogue, nor the final “lewd” red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. No, fashion watchers were expecting something that would be much more nuanced, more sophisticated – what the hell would Kate Moss wear to testify at her ex-boyfriend Johnny Depp’s libel trial this week?
During her three minutes on the witness stand via video link to clarify that “did she fall/was she pushed?” question of the stairs (she fell), Moss weaponized a white-polka-dot pussy-bow blouse.
To the untrained eye, such a choice might seem like perfectly innocuous court attire. Not to Mossy and fashion connoisseurs, however. There has always been something subtly subversive about the pussybow.
“Historically, it’s associated with women beginning to invade masculine spaces – the golf course, the workplace – and challenging traditional dress codes,” says Dr Kate Strasdin of Falmouth University.
It was popularized in the 1960s by Coco Chanel, whose silk blouses offset more masculine fabrics like tweed. But it was in 1966, when Yves Saint Laurent appropriated the feminine tuxedo trouser suit to create Le Smoking, softening it with a silk pussy-bow blouse, that it became more radical and became a feminist fashion statement. .
“It was the first time it had been paired with pants,” Strasdin explains. “There was a direct femininity but it was hypermasculinized.”
The 1960s pussybow gave working women in a man’s world a soft-power version of a suit and tie (your reference: those Mad Men badasses Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway). It was an iron fist in a velvet glove.
It was also a key part of Margaret Thatcher’s sartorial arsenal, who reportedly called it “softening and pretty”.
And as if to remind the world of its rebellious roots, Balenciaga opened its Resort 2023 show at the New York Stock Exchange last Sunday with a model wearing a voluminous black satin pussy-bow blouse with a latex gimp mask.
Kate’s take was rather more polite. Wearing it with a black satin lapel jacket, the look was very Le Smoking: “She almost recreated this 1966 icon [Helmut Newton] image,” says Strasdin.
So what could Kate have said? What was she spilling?
“It evokes challenge,” says fashion historian Dr. Bethan Bide. “The bow is almost coming undone. It says she’s trying less hard, it feels more rebellious. It’s like she’s saying, ‘I’m not going to play for you here.’ It is a refusal to deliver for the media circus.
“Kate is brilliant at getting around that line. On the face of it, her look is eminently respectable, but she has this real vibe that gives that kickback.
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