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Maria Elena Buszek

Maria Elena Buszek is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Colorado, Denver, where she teaches courses on modern and contemporary art. Her recent publications include the books Pin-Up Grrrls: Feminism, Sexuality, Popular Culture and Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art, and contributions to the anthology Punkademics: The Basement Show in the Ivory Tower and exhibition catalog Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia. Her current book project explores the history of art/music hybrids since 1977.

“Joe Strummer’s Silk-Stocking Sleeves: Feminism and Fashion in London Punk”
Foregrounding as it does “CLOTHES” in its title, Viv Albertine’s critically-acclaimed 2014 autobiography CLOTHES CLOTHES CLOTHES MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC BOYS BOYS BOYS champions the fact that fashion was the first way in which punk culture expressed itself, its participants found one another, and perhaps the one subject on which women were looked to as authorities at punk’s start.  This authority was reflected in the significance of women as professional designers and do-it-yourself pioneers in punk fashion, and also instilled in many an agency that extended to other parts of their lives. Because recent anniversaries around punk’s fourth decade have seen a burst of interest in establishing a canon of its foundational figures that too often marginalize, or outright ignore the contributions of women, I would like to address the pivotal roles of both fashion and women in the foundation of U.K. punk.   In particular, this presentation will focus on women within The Clash’s circle of collaborators for whom clothing served as an empowering extension of their creative practice and, for several, a realization of their feminist politics: The Slits’ Albertine, music journalist and band manager Caroline Coon, and Clash costume designer Alex Michon. To Coon, the real story of punk fashion was the way it “demonstrated a progressive political story of how patriarchal, orthodox, binary sex and gender stereotyping was being blurred if not collapsing.” In this presentation, using new interviews with and archival materials from Coon and Michon, I will zero in on both the queer and feminist underpinnings of punk fashion, including the gear designed by Michon for the famously-butch Clash.