While wearing clasps has been in style since ancient Greece (brooches that fastened to togas were the mode du jour), the humble safety pin made its way into the fashion zeitgeist thanks to the emergence of punk rock. The gritty aesthetic, favored by artists like Johnny Rotten, eventually translated to the runways of Vivienne Westwood and Malcom McLaren, among others, elevating punk style from subculture to pop culture.
Since the late ’70s, designers have used safety pins to make fashion statements. Labels like Versace, Moschino and Balmain have feminized the safety pin, affixing them to daring dresses and edgy gowns: Elizabeth Hurley famously made a splash after sporting a safety pin-embellished Versace dress in 1994 at the premiere of “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” while John Galliano reinvented one of his vintage designs for Miley Cyrus at the 2024 Grammys, draping her in 14,000 gold safety pins.
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Ahead, WWD looks back at the evolution of the safety pin dress.
Along with contemporaries like McLaren, Westwood and Stephen Sprouse, Zandra Rhodes made punk fashion mainstream. For her “conceptual-chic” collection inspired by London street style, the British designer flipped the traditional couture “bride” on its head by crafting a white gown adorned with safety pins and ball chains.
In 1994, Versace put Hurley on the map by dressing her in a daring safety pin dress. Her appearance alongside then-boyfriend Hugh Grant at the London premiere of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” is largely credited with raising her celebrity profile: a year later, Hurley was tapped as a spokesmodel for Estée Lauder. Since catapulting their visibility in the 1990s, safety pins have become one of Versace’s most popular motifs.
Before Miley Cyrus wore John Galliano’s Margiela safety pin dress, the British designer debuted two of his own designs in 1997. Galliano’s fall collection, which was partially inspired by ancient Egyptian regalia, featured two gowns made from safety pins.
Moschino, a label known for its campy creations, has also dabbled in the safety pin dress. For the brand’s spring 1998 collection, creative director Franco Moschino sent Stella Tennant down the runway in a simple shift adorned with silver embellishments, including safety pins.
Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Kylie Minogue have all favored Gareth Pugh’s edgy designs. For his fall 2008 collection, the British couturier created two dresses decorated with rows of silver safety pins.
Balmain’s spring 2011 line featured a flurry of leather garments embellished with safety pins. Kristen Stewart, who was then in her “Twilight” heyday, wore a custom Balmain design based on the punk-inspired collection at the MTV Movie Awards.
Jean Paul Gaultier
Following his retirement in 2020, Jean Paul Gaultier tapped the talents of several designers to create collections for his eponymous label. Balmain’s creative director, Olivier Rousteing, took the helm for Gaultier’s fall 2022 haute couture show, designing a floor-length gown that was partially held together by gold safety pins.
Versace reinvented its safety pin dress to pay homage to Karl Lagerfeld at the 2023 Met Gala. The Italian label dressed Anne Hathaway in a gown that mixed Chanel’s classic motifs (pearls, camellias and tweed) with Versace’s Medusa-emblazoned clasps.
Galliano referenced his old work to design a new dress for Cyrus at the Grammys. Under the Maison Margiela label, he created a gold frock made from 14,000 safety pins.
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