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SHALINI SHAH
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FASHION The safety pin has long ceased to be a functional piece of twisted metal

ILLUSTRATION: SHALINI SHAH
ILLUSTRATION: SHALINI SHAH

Many know the story of ‘THAT DRESS”. That dress which, almost two decades ago — 1994, to be exact — turned one Liz Hurley into more than a Hugh Grant hanger-on for the Four Weddings and a Funeral premiere. That barely-there black dress with gold safety pins running down the sides, the wearing of which many (unfortunately for Miss Hurley) cite as her biggest achievement. Apparently, she wore the dress — designed by none other than Gianni Versace — because, being poor, there was nothing else for her to get into. The safety pin was now safely pinned to stardom. Today, it’s considered among the most influential dresses in fashion history. (Last year, Lady Gaga paid the house of Versace a tribute by wearing a similar dress when meeting Donatella Versace.)

Closer home, in India safety pins have been in use for decades to hold together the sari’s runaway pleats. They serve other purposes elsewhere. According to ‘The Museum of Everyday Life’, in Ukraine safety pins pinned inside children’s clothing are supposed to ward off evil spirits.

The tiny piece of twisted metal, credited to American mechanic Walter Hunt, was essentially a functional item that was never really meant to be flaunted. Over the years, other connotations kept being added to it. Most importantly, appropriation by the Punk subculture of the mid-1970s meant that the safety pin, along with razor blades, became a form of personal embellishment. In “Punk: Guide to an American Subculture” there is mention of how a magazine in Los Angeles, in a ‘How to Look Punk’ guide, instructs “Cut up T-shirt, then lace or pin it back together”. There are other tips, all involving safety pins on different items of clothing that want them but don’t need them. Ever since, the safety pin has remained a clever, convenient element of DIY wear.

New York-based jewellery designer Tom Binns, who draws his design aesthetic from the “anti-art” Dada movement of 20th Century Europe, and whose fans include the likes of Michelle Obama, has been known to extensively use safety pins in his pieces. The recently unveiled six-piece collaboration with Charlotte Olympia, too, features safety pins on the latter’s platform pumps and Perspex clutches.

The brilliant Solange Azagury-Partridge’s safety pin earrings are one of her more popular designs.

With the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York deciding to pay tribute to punk in its highly anticipated annual exhibition this year, titled “Punk: Chaos to Couture”, the safety pin might make many more special appearances.

SHALINI SHAH

Credited to American mechanic Walter Hunt, it was essentially a functional item that was never really meant to be flaunted

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