Punk Chic

By Chandra Orr

July 8, 2011 5 min read

Punk still is going strong. The spring runways were flush with leather collars, metal studs, zippered pants and buckles galore, and for fall, designers still are doling out the edgy, rock-'n'-roll aesthetic.

British designer Ashish Gupta took the trend and rocked the runway with skeleton sweaters, spider web tights, patchwork plaids and enough safety pins to satisfy Johnny Rotten himself, while punk iconoclast Betsey Johnson put a gothic princess spin on the look with corset styling, neck chokers and bold hues infused with plenty of black lace.

Even the super-stylish Z Spoke by Zac Posen ready-to-wear line whispered of dark, deviant sensibilities, with models decked out in an overdose of black eyeliner, black lipstick and perfectly pale skin.

But even for the most fashion-forward, it's a look best worn with restraint.

"The trick to wearing any trend is to refer to the decade you are feeling for but not go too literal. The first feels modern and fashionable; the second is simply a Halloween costume," say designer Liz Lange and her sister, Jane Wagman, who together run the fashion and style website Shopafrolic.

In other words, use caution when incorporating this look into your everyday wear.

"Take one aspect of the punk trend and wear it, but not all of them at once, please," Lange and Wagman caution. "Do wear a motorcycle-inspired jacket, but pair it with a soft, feminine blouse or a flirty dress instead of a torn T-shirt to take it from 1980s copycat to 2011 fabulous."

"The punk look is all about rebellion mixed with creative self-expression -- but tread lightly," says stylist Michele Little, founder of One Chic Mama Inc. "This is more about a trend than it is about associating with a group of social outcasts, so dip your toe in and try a couple of pieces, but don't go whole-hog."

For a look that says fashionista -- and not fashion victim -- pair eccentric accents, such as studded platform pumps and zipper-covered handbags, with more subdued, sophisticated outfits.

"The punk look can be pulled off by all ages yet at different levels," Little explains. "Twenty-somethings can go a little edgier without running the risk of looking too trendy, but those in their 30s or 40s should just add a simple piece or two. Studded cuff bracelets look great when teamed with something elegant, or try a pair of funky punk boots with an otherwise simple outfit for an unexpected spin."

If metal studs, safety pins and zippers aren't your style, look for pieces in the modern punk-rock palette -- saturated hues, such as electric cobalt blue, intense ocher, royal purple and bright red. Pair the bold colors with basic black in unexpected ways for a clever take on the trend; think opaque tights in yellow or red worn with an all-black outfit.

"We are big believers that a woman of any age can wear any trend, as long as it is flattering on her body type," Lange and Wagman say. "A pair of black pants with a red silk top, for instance, is a great way for a 60- or 70-something to embrace punk, whereas a 20-something might want to go for tight cobalt bluejeans worn with pointy leather stilettos."

Though leather accessories, buckled platform boots and coordinates with creatively placed cutouts make the transition from runway to real world, there are a few punk-inspired pieces that don't.

"Stay away from stud collars and chokers unless you are into S&M -- and zippers have their place, but not too many please," Lange and Wagman say.

Likewise, T-shirts emblazoned with in-your-face images, ripped or shredded jeans and lace-up leather pants are looks best left in the designer showrooms, Little says.

That being said, punk is all about self-expression and bucking the trend. It's about throwing the rules out the window and being creative, so don't be afraid to have a little fun with it.

"The punk look creates a means for showing one's true colors that is rivaled by few other trends," Little says. "Keep it true to your signature style and you can't go wrong."

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