Bowie: Style through the ages

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Bowie’s style has without a doubt been phenomenal – from space and back to suburbia, his creative flare extended to fashion as well as music. Bowie once said, “Make the best of every moment. We’re not evolving. We’re not going anywhere” – a sentiment which seems to have played a role in his constant re-inventions of his sound and image. From the plain Davy Jones to iconic Ziggy Stardust and back to superstar David Bowie, the many incarnations of his style have made their mark on fashion through their widespread popularity as well as their influence on designers.

When Bowie placed his fresh-faced musical talent on screen during the early 60s, he was widely known as ‘Mod Bowie’. His playful interpretation of mod style included the use of food colouring to dye his hair, as well as incorporating the trend of schoolboy taperedleg trousers. Bowie dwelled in the London Mod scene where his singles ‘I Dig Everything’ and ‘I Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ placed him on the map as a rising young talent. A feature with Bowie and Twiggy in ‘Fabulous’ magazine marked the first run of the pin-up style that later became the cover of his album ‘PinUps’, which included covers of songs by The Who and The Kinks. During the mid 60s, his style turned to three-button suits, white button-down shirts and inch-wide ties, creating a minimalistic and simple, yet sharp aesthetic.

In the early days of the 1970s, a more hippie Bowie emerged, reflecting the mood of the time. He created a sensation when he wore a ‘man dress’ designed by Michael Fish. However, soon this style was in decline, and in 1978 he said in an interview, “God, I hated the hippie period” with a shy laugh, and described it as being plainly just a time to talk of creativity when there was so little. The next incarnation of Bowie was the iconic Glam Bowie, which was for him a symbolic move. “Glam really did plant seeds for a new identity,” he said. “I think a lot of kids needed a sense of reinvention. Kids learnt that however crazy you may think it is, there is a place for what you want to do and who you want to be.” The release of ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ in 1972 became the era for Bowie’s memorable persona – Ziggy. Inspiration came from many sources: Japanese culture, Alice Cooper’s makeup and Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Bowie’s look became alien-like, with reddish-brown hair and non-existent eyebrows. The retiring of Ziggy Stardust was received with sadness, yet it was not the end of his influence as a style icon.

The newfound Soul Bowie who materialised during the mid 70s contrasted harshly with glam. He wore dandyish tailored suits by Freddie Buretti and Yves Saint Laurent, and took on the ‘Thin White Duke’ character, influenced by Bowie’s alien role in the film The Man Who Fell to Earth. After moving to Berlin in the late 70s, Bowie went incognito: he became immersed in Brian Eno’s music, William Burroughs’s writing and Salvador Dalí’s artwork. He dropped the glitter and instead grew a moustache and went monochrome, wearing a leather jacket and a quiffed hairdo on the cover of Heroes.

By 1980, a new romantic Bowie was seen to be dressing up once more. He wore glittery designs and the exquisite cyber-clown wear ‘Pierrot in Turquoise’ by Natasha Korniloff, which made appearances during shows and on film, notably during Bowie’s role as ‘Jareth the Goblin King’ in Labyrinth. Since the late 90s, with the last big reinvention, we have seen Neo-Classicist Bowie: with his focus on classic rock music, he has favoured the reminiscent tailored suits of the late 70s. He has also worn cuttingedge designs such as the Union Jack frock coat, designed by the young Alexander McQueen.

Bowie’s influence is everywhere, with references to his style incorporated into designs by many of the big names in fashion. The Miu Miu A/W12 campaign, featuring Chloë Sevigny, took a strong resemblance to Bowie’s Aladdin and Ziggy images. McQueen’s designs continue to be influential after working on Bowie’s Hunky Dory album, with flared trousers and sharp shoulders. Burton, the current McQueen designer, created the andro 70s Cruise 2013 collection that was inspired by the track ‘Changes’ by Bowie. Gaultier played upon designs of cosmic prints, sharp shoulder and tight bodysuits with iconic red mullet wigs in S/S13, as a visual tribute to Ziggy – Bowie’s fantasy persona.

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