The wild styles of David Bowie, fashion icon

By Eric Randolph, AFP

PARIS–His groundbreaking career was as much about style as it was about music — David Bowie plundered a wild array of influences to redraw the boundaries of fashion and blur the lines between masculine, feminine and other-worldly. Throughout his heyday in the 1970s and beyond, each new album and sound was matched by a radically new look, bringing a dimension of performance art and daring experimentation to the world of pop music. Among the most memorable outfits: the huge, billowing trousers in black vinyl and white stripes from his Aladdin Sane period in 1973, inspired by Japanese kabuki theatre.

Or the iconic appearance on British TV show “Top of the Pops” a year earlier, with his shock of fiery hair and gender-bending outfit in gold, red and azure blue — inspired by the dystopian futurism of Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.” The gang of “Droogs” in the film, Bowie drily commented, were “Ultraviolence in Liberty fabrics,” referring to the famous London fashion store. Some of his styles were just too much for censors to stomach.

A cobweb bodysuit — with two hands clutching the chest — designed by Natasha Korniloff for a Ziggy Stardust show in 1973 had to be modified at the insistence of a U.S. TV network to remove a third hand thrusting up between Bowie’s legs.

He also used Korniloff for one of his more striking costumes — the blue Pierrot outfit that featured in his “Ashes to Ashes” video in 1980, recalling a classical clown and 17th century theatre.

‘Radical innovations’

Bowie always had an eye for emerging fashion talent.

In 1997, he solicited Alexander McQueen, then a young graduate, to design his Union Jack coat, inspired by that of Pete Townshend from The Who.