In this week’s Style Fetish, let us look no further than David Bowie for inspiration in style, life and Snowdown 2016. He made some of the best rock ’n’ roll ever for more than 50 years and looked cutting-edge the entire time. His looks ranged from classic menswear to avant garde costumes and his clothing, hair and makeup were always impeccably put together, attended to with artistic thoroughness.
Bowie shows us a potent example of clothing and style being hyper-relevant to the music being made, and vice versa. His music and his style each informed and supported the other and intensified this combination into the realm of true performance art. The advent of MTV and the growing sophistication of music video concepts and production in the early ’80s cemented music and fashion together forevermore, and kicked off Bowie’s new wave pop incarnation. That special David Bowie music-meets-style gestalt that began in the 1970s fully emerged by the 1980s and still kept transforming, spotlighting him as a highly-influential and prescient style icon.
Bowie released the LP “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” in 1980. The iconic video for “Ashes To Ashes” introduced Bowie’s new sparkly, raggedy Pierrot clown persona and contrasted it with him in simple classic ’80s style menswear as well as spacesuits in styles both pre-Cronenbergian and sadomasochistic. Bowie’s Proto-Goth nun companion-chorus seem to be style aunties to Siouxsie Sioux and Robert Smith, their crosses to later appear on heavy-metal dudes while the bustier’d and full-skirted girl reminds us that we are now in the retro-’50s-loving-’80s. This girl’s style later morphs into early Madonna and Cyndi Lauper’s shared silhouette of bustier-with-crinoline.
The fancy and androgynous New Romantic look gained steam after Bowie experimented with this style and influenced other musicians in the early ’80s. This dandified, neo-Victorian exaggeration wore lacy neck cravats, fancy shirt cuffs, velvet waist and tailcoats and ornate jewelry with heavy eye makeup influenced Roxy Music, Prince and Adam Ant. Ladies rocked the menswear look while more men wore eye makeup, making this look equal-opportunity for continued ’80s androgyny, even though our trendsetter Bowie had perfected this look back in the early ’70s. Experimental cross-dressing, makeup on men and more makeup on everyone became more common after New Romanticism, as shown by Boy George of Culture Club.
The video for (of course) “Fashion” features Bowie and the band in what would become spot-on 1980s trends of high, “paper-bag”-waisted pleated pants, military-inspired jumpsuits, shirts with flipped-up collars, cuffs wherever possible, stripes, bright, primary colors and a permed mullet or two. The video for “Fashion” is also a great example of the interesting styles that appear in the gray areas between decades. Bowie’s audience and extras show us some post-disco and pre-workout-wear looks, as well as Bowie himself displaying a very ’70s bare chest under a very unbuttoned shirt. “Beep, beep” indeed, David. And thank god that our usual band of Bowie video costumed freaks are still here.
“Scary Monsters” and his 1983 and 1984 records, “Let’s Dance” and “Tonight,” brought Bowie’s theatrical Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane personae of the ’70s into a more trendy, fashion-forward and street-style iteration. “Let’s Dance” was poppier and more mainstream than his previous records, this is reflected in his clothing styles of these times. Bowie’s style here gracefully turns back to the masculine classics that returned to vogue in the 1980s, like dapper ’40s-inspired suits with strong shoulders and pegged pants, vests, unknotted bow ties worn loose around the neck and button-on suspenders. The rich, collegiate “preppie” look showed up on Bowie now in layered shirts and striped rep neckties.
David Bowie was as ingrained in style and fashion as he was in the making of music. I see him as a funky pioneer of performance art in the most literal sense of the word. Bowie’s creativity and style will continue to be a source of confidence, inspiration and validation for all us Pretty Things, won’t it?
Heather Narwid owns Sideshow Emporium, a vintage and second-hand clothing store recently relocated to downtown Durango from Dolores. She thinks you look nice today. Ask her anything at [email protected].