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Anti-fashion is an umbrella term for various styles of dress which are explicitly contrary to the fashion of the day. Anti-fashion styles may represent an attitude of indifference or may arise from political or practical goals which make fashion a secondary priority. The term is sometimes even used for styles championed by high-profile designers, when they encourage or create trends that do not follow the mainstream fashion of the time. This anti-fashion was adopted in response to the 'overly fashion conscious' fans of bands such as the Sex Pistols.[1]


Grunge is an example of the oppositional style of dress while the rational dress of the Victorian era, which allowed ladies to swim or bicycle, is an example of a functional anti-fashion.[2] A trend for feminist women to dress in ways that do not follow the norms for women's clothing has been described as anti-fashion, though research suggested many women who dress this way do not choose to label themselves this way, in the opinion of author Samantha Holland this is because the women do not like the confrontational overtones of the term.[2]


In the 1990s, a minimalist style described as anti fashion emerged on both sides of the Atlantic where young people would typically wear simple clothes such as black jeans and white T-shirts without a visible brand name. Another period of anti-fashion has taken place in the 1950s with the advent of rock and roll, especially with young adolescent women.

Instead of the standard of wearing a dress or skirt, particularly hoop skirts and poodle skirts, many young women wore jeans and plaid shirts, or simple plain T shirts in rebellion with the gender roles and societal norms at that time. This fashion has the roots of many modern anti-fashion trends, such as grunge, decades later.


Another example, this time from the early 20th century, was promoted by the legendary designer Gabrielle Chanel - a "poor girl" woman's style where rich ladies could look like regular women while still dressing in clothes that showed their quality under close inspection.[3]

The dress sense of the Charles, Prince of Wales has been described as anti fashion, in that it reflects indifference to current fashion in favor of traditional style.[citation needed] Anti-fashion has also been used to describe simple fashion adopted by hardcore punks in the 1980s. At its strictest, it consists of a plain white T-shirt, black trousers or plain jeans and black boots, with the hair cut short.

2017 Museum exhibition studying anti-fashion[edit]

Starting in May 2017 fashion/anti-fashion is one of the thematic fashion pairings which was examined in an exhibit studying the works of Rei Kawakubo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's in New York.[4] Andrew Bolton, the curator for the Kawakubo exhibit at the Met stated that the exhibit in May 2017 will be an austere, all-white maze hosting approximately 150 Comme ensembles. Both the exhibit and accompanying book by Bolton are based upon the recurrent fashion dichotomies concentrating on eight thematic oppositions listed as: (1) fashion/anti-fashion; (2) design/not design; (3) model/multiple; (4) then/now; (5) high/low; (6) self/other; (7) object/subject; and (8) clothes/not clothes.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Malcolm Barnard (2002), Fashion as communication, Routledge, pp. 12–19, ISBN 9780415260183
  2. ^ a b Samantha Holland (2004-09-04), "Anti-fashion and feminism", Alternative femininities, ISBN 9781859738085
  3. ^ Elizabeth Wilson (1992), Adorned in dreams: fashion and modernity, University of California Press, pp. 40, 184, ISBN 0-520-06212-4
  4. ^ Time magazine. Kawakubo announcement of 2017 exhibit. [1]
  5. ^ Lynn Yaeger. "On the Eve of the Comme des Garçons Retrospective, the Notoriously Reclusive Rei Kawakubo Speaks Out", APRIL 13, 2017, Vogue Magazine.