"Poor Things" and the Ghosts of Shao New York's NYFW Show

Updated: May 9, 2024
In her New York Times piece dissecting the Shao New York SS24 show, Vanessa Friedman aptly described it as “a middle finger to the fashion establishment,” a sentiment that resonates deeply with the sartorial subversion on display in Yorgos Lanthimos’s “Poor Things.” While the film throws its Victorian sensibilities out the window with playful anachronisms and “Franken-chic” costuming, it echoes the raw rebellion and social commentary that fueled Shao New York’s collection, masterminded by Kelly Cutrone and the infamous Anna Delvey.

Both “Poor Things” and Shao New York challenge the traditional narratives surrounding fashion. In the film, Emma Stone’s Bella Paxton sheds the restrictive layers of Victorian gowns, mirroring her literal and metaphorical transformation. Her canary yellow coat with bondage-inspired lacing and ruffled blouses paired with shorts defy the demure expectations of the era, reminiscent of the safety-pin adorned dresses and deconstructed corsetry that sent shockwaves down the NYFW runway. Both Bella and the models on Shao’s runway reject societal constraints, their clothing becoming battle cries for individuality and freedom.

As Friedman points out in her article, Shao New York’s “anachronisms were anything but accidental,” serving as a “rejection of the historical accuracy that often bogs down period pieces.” Similarly, “Poor Things” embraces anachronisms with a wink and a nudge. The film’s playful costuming, like Bella’s mismatched stockings, highlights the absurdity of Victorian norms and societal expectations, much like Shao New York’s collection challenged fashion’s obsession with trends and labels.

However, as Friedman astutely observes, “Shao New York wasn’t just about clothes; it was about the spectacle.” The collection reveled in its rawness and defiance, its aesthetic a middle finger to the fashion establishment. “Poor Things,” on the other hand, leans into whimsy and dark humor, its fashion choices playful and theatrical. Both approaches, however, spark conversation and challenge the status quo.

Ultimately, both “Poor Things” and Shao New York’s collection remind us that fashion, at its core, is a conversation starter. It’s a platform for challenging norms, sparking dialogue, and expressing ourselves in unconventional ways. While “Poor Things” might be set in the past, its fashion speaks volumes to a contemporary audience hungry for liberation and self-expression, just like the one Shao New York addressed on the runway. Whether through whimsical subversion or punk rebellion, both remind us that fashion is most powerful when it pushes boundaries and dares to be different. After all, wasn’t that the spirit of punk in the first place?

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