David Bowie made early in his public persona into a performance piece, and used the fashion and style as key tools in his oeuvre. Not least, he showed at the fashion force that through the outer transformation also turn inside.
In 1973, during his Aladdin Sane tour , stepped David Bowie on stage in a black shiny jumpsuits in lacquer, covered in dense geometric circles that found its way around the garment like the annual rings on a tree. “Rites of Spring” (or “Spring rain” as it is also called) was an oversized portable sculpture, in every way different from the expression that dominated the passage of conventional aesthetics. It was structured, yet gentle, body-shaped at the top, but as far as ample bottom that formed a circle around the legs. The moment David Bowie began singing “Ziggy played guitar …” climbed two assistants on stage and tore the garment deal – Bowie continued number in underwear with Japanese undertones.
The transformation is typical of David Bowie and his contribution to fashion the story. The unpredictability, style mix, gender and genre overrun and the desire to create something new and unknown has been the hallmark of an oeuvre in which music and fashion are mixed and together exalt clothing choices, both on stage and in private, to the key elements of an ongoing performance piece.
There are more David Bowie than we can count. Over the years, he has transformed itself several times, created more alter egos and derivatives of these alter egos, than go to catalog.
Self could I, as a young David Bowie fan, do not get enough of the images. Sure interested myself in the music, but it truly tantalizing was the aesthetic whole, it was a part of. The red hair sprawled over a pale emaciated face and looked down inside the body stocking in the neck. The high damstövlarna with thick 70s heels that looked out over a suit pants. Bowie for a walk with his wife Angie and son Duncan in the stroller – in transparent oversized damblus, half-meter wide trousers and embroidered felt hat.
David Bowie was impossible to define. He began his career (with future standards) mods haired guy in the 60s, but became during the 70th century into a fashion wise kaleidoscope, which exploded in very different idiom, and often let them meet each other. The closet contained women’s clothing as well as military garments. The styles were inspired by the Bloomsbury group, and the commedia dell’arte, the German cabaret performers, the Rolling Stones and the eccentric British upper class fashion.
On the cover of the British edition of “The Man who sold the world” (1970) was David Bowie in the long undulating hippiehår and salmon pink dress with applications comfortably stretched out on a divan. The image is said to be inspired by Dante Gabriel Rosettis painting. And Bowie, who then borrowed inspiration from modernist artists in the marketing of his career (Picasso’s self-glorification, Dalí flamboyans), spoke about that with the picture hoped to make rock the world “little fnaskigare”.
1970 Bowie an established artist , the album “Space Oddity” had been on the British charts, and he had a loose role as manager for several different bands. He certainly had previously been shown in her husband dress and high-heeled boots on photographs from her garden in south London. But aesthetics were then another – images flirted with the hippie culture and folklore.
This was something else – a man in makeup and dress with clear associations with transsexuality. In the early 70s, LGBT social movements still in its infancy. The cover was provocative, not to say revolutionary. A bold visual statement that was to be the beginning of a century of curiosity, greater sexual openness and tolerance in the Western world.
David Bowie appeared on “The man who sold the world” was also a first step an artist who during his career would come to play with the audience’s expectations of gender and sexuality, and often come across previously drawn limits. Not long after “The man who sold the world” said Bowie in a widely quoted interview with Melody Maker that he was gay “and always been there, even when I was David Jones’. In the coming decades, he would both contradict that modify the claim – but in 1971 it was a fact. Rock World had been one of his very first open (albeit not a practicing) gay stars.
The cover also gave a premonition of the persona we might most strongly come to identify with the young Bowie, his most original and style creation fashion artwork. Ziggy Stardust style borrowed influences from ballet and inexpensive everyday fashion like Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”.
A Bowie in women’s clothing was a an important achievement for LGBT social movements. Ziggy Stardust is an example of another type of farsightedness. A subversive yet lovable figure who foresaw the post-modern style blends that characterizes today’s fashion. In Ziggy crossed references from different eras, cultures, könskodningar and, not least, the places in the cultural hierarchy. He foresaw the coming decades, more complex and more mixed world – and gazed therefore well into the future.
An acquaintance recently told that the books of David Bowie nowadays be found in the big London bookshop Foyles fashion shelf, rather than “music”. The exhibition “David Bowie Ice” which was cured for Victoria & amp; Albert Museum in London in 2013, and is now continuing on to the Groninger Museum in Holland, showed clearly the strong link between music and fashion that built the icon David Bowie, and made him such an effective cultural transformation engine.
However, it is very possible that the books move further – David Bowie was a renaissance man. He re-invented not only the glam rock, soul and guts – he revolutionized the addition of video art and digital culture. To say nothing of the art world where he stirred the pot with prospective online-projects and important patrons.
Even in the fashion world did David Bowie as a patron. He refused to accept his time sharp dividing lines between different stylistic approaches (mods, hippies, upper class, subclass, and so on) and picked up experimental fashion designers, which are far from the passage of prevailing ideals.
One of his most important partner was the Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto (not to confuse with the names Yohji). The two met in 1973 when David Bowie went through a period of strong influences from Japanese Kabuki theater. Yamamoto working outside the normal fashion system – his clothes builds on Japanese costume history and do not follow any trends but inspired by fashion creator’s emotions and intuition. During the “Aladdin Sane” tour in 1973 bar David Bowie garments copied from Yamamots creations. Instead of suing the singer for trademark infringement allowed the designer to sew up a number of the stage garment that he handed over when the two met in Tokyo.
Their collaboration would result in many of Bowie’s iconic garments from this time. It was including Kansai Yamamoto who designed the hallucination-inducing portable sculpture “Rites of Spring”, its origin is in his first fashion show in London, where the models is also described by some garments to show others underneath. Yamamoto also created the spectacular kimonos and samurai coats Bowie often only on stage in 1973 and in 1974 – as well as more challenging outfits, including Bowie’s say the least revealing sumo underwear.
There is a prejudice that fashion is for beautiful people. In fact, people who are beautiful on the outside do not need fashion. They may be content to have a great style. All of us need to fashion. Fashion that has the magical property that it transforms us into something other than what we actually look like. It can be something as radical as that of a woman trapped in a man’s body – and now needs to come out, express themselves, show. It can also just be a little more daring, a bit more creative, or more exciting than our familiarity testify that hides within us.
The word fashion icon is now watered down, an epithet that is assigned to every actress in linen and denim shorts showing in Los Angeles. David Bowie was a style icon in the truest sense – one that shows that we humans do not have to be at our reading. With its everlasting many fashion expression, many of which were far removed from his own upbringing and background, he gave us all the right to equip ourselves with a role in its sole discretion. As a woman, husband, rock star, upper-class gentleman, fool or, for those who are so laid, alien. Thus reminded David Bowie and his many incarnations and the alter egos of fashion incredible performative power – its ability, through the outer transformation indeed transform the inside. And make us humans to something other than we actually are.
Madelaine Levy is literary editor at Svenska Dagbladet.