Last year we sadly lost many bright and talented stars – including musical greats Prince, George Michael and David Bowie. This Sunday would have been Bowie’s birthday, and we’re celebrating this extraordinary man who influenced music and fashion for over four decades.
“The truth is of course that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time.” – David Bowie
What springs to mind when you think of David Bowie? Maybe you remember the skin-tight catsuits of the Ziggy Stardust days. Or perhaps the Thin White Duke was the coolest of Bowie’s looks over the years. Or maybe Jareth, the Goblin King from the 1986 movie Labyrinth, is Bowie at the peak of his sartorial suave.
Flamboyant, androgynous, progressive, elegant and theatrical are all words that could be used to describe this fashion changeling whose personas evolved with his music. Here, we look back at 3 of our favourite images from Bowie’s fashion career…
1: The ‘lovely looking hippy boy’
Credited with bridging the gap between the 60s and the 70s in the documentary Five Years, Bowie went through a phase of wearing his then wife Angie’s hippie style dresses and was often compared with Greta Garbo because of his long hair and high cheekbones. When Bowie first played at Glastonbury Festival, his set was moved to sunrise on the Wednesday –which happened to be Midsummer – meaning that he played to around 6,000 hippies as the sun rose on the longest day of the year.
“None of us had a clue who Bowie was but he played for about an hour on the pyramid stage at 4am just as the sun was coming up,” said Michael Eavis (via Somerset Live). “It was magical. There were hippies everywhere and he looked the part… “
Bowie’s festival wear that summer of ’71 consisted of bell-bottomed trousers, a cape and a rakish hat complete with a feather.
2: Ziggy Stardust
“Ziggy Stardust is to me a kind of colossus that marks a tremendous transition between the 1960s and the 1970s.” – Camille Paglia, Five Years
Soon after his first Glastonbury performance, Bowie toured as his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, with the band, the Spiders from Mars. Possibly the most famous of all Bowie’s stage personalities, Ziggy was a fictional glam-rock superstar who, according to Rolling Stone, ‘changed rock’ forever. Bowie wanted to shake up the ‘boring’ music industry, so he created a Rockstar/prophet character who had come to earth to warn humanity about the end of the world. The look was futuristic, camp and risqué, all satin and sparkles and crowned with that orange barnet which later completed Bowie’s lightning-striped Aladdin Sane look. On the Ziggy Stardust album, the rock god’s story ended in disaster as his crazed fans tore him to pieces on stage. In real life, fact was mimicking fiction as reactions to Ziggy and the band intensified.
“At first, I just assumed that character onstage,” said Bowie (via Rolling Stone). “Then everybody started to treat me as they treated Ziggy… I became convinced I was a messiah. Very scary. I woke up very quickly.”
In waking up, Bowie had to kill Ziggy off and reinvent himself again. His next guise was completely different: the slick, pastel suit-wearing Thin White Duke. The sound was different too – electronic rock inspired by European artists that Bowie admired and emulated.
3: Jareth, The Goblin King
‘For those who didn’t grow up on Ziggy, Starman or even the commercial high of 1983’s Let’s Dance, the first – and indeed defining – glimpse at this trailblazer was in the guise of Jareth the Goblin King.’ – Nick Bond, news.com.au.
A whole generation of fans discovered Bowie and his music through his portrayal of the Goblin King in the 1986 cult classic, Labyrinth. The film flopped at the box office but gained cult status thanks to Bowie’s Rockstar influence.
With a typical disregard for traditional masculinity and a penchant for revealing outfits, Bowie’s Jareth is ‘a flamboyantly menacing character with spray-on lavender tights and an oh-so-80s Bonnie Tyler hairdo’ (Nick Bond). Now the makeup, the codpiece and the elfin mullet are cosplay favourites.
“I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.” – Jareth.
They do it over there but we don’t do it here…
From hippy clothing to glam-rock glitter, and from pastel suits to punk, David Bowie may appear to have dabbled in every phase of fashion known to man. In truth, he revolutionised fashion as many times as he revolutionised music and reinvented himself.