Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Into the Wild

Fashion is more than a style or a fad. It is that which establishes the identity of a people, like the Scottish Kilt. It defines and influences generations, from Michael Jackson’s hat and gloves to Marilyn Monroe’s flaring dress. It contributes to the literature and language of our times and starts outrageous movements, like the term and spread of “wardrobe malfunction”. It also forms the content for this blog.
“Clothes make a man; naked people have little or no influence in society.”-Mark Twain.


If you are not one of them, fashion is important for you. Iconic fashion moments and trends have captivated generations and even spawned mass hysteria, from Princess Diana’s wedding gown to Elvis Presley’s jumpsuit. Here is an assortment of the strangest and most (in)famous of them:

Elvis Presley’s Jumpsuit
Not only was he the King of Rock n’ Roll, but also one of the most popular fashion icons of the 1960s and ‘70s. It would be tough to decide which trend he made most popular: the curled lip, the lock of hair over the forehead, the sideburns, the swagger or the black leather jacket. The strangest trend however, is easy to pick. Elvis ushered in the age of the jumpsuit. He wore them white, colourful, jewelled, plain, flared, unbuttoned and any which way. The flared bottoms are still in vogue today. His jumpsuits now form part of prized collections across the world. His favourite one, the Peacock Jumpsuit, was auctioned for $300,000 in 2008.

Marilyn Monroe’s Billowing Dress
This is probably the most iconic image in movie history: Marilyn Monroe standing over a New York subway vent as her dress billows up around her while filming “The Seven-Year Itch” (1955). It represented the glamour of the 50s and became synonymous with the legendary star. There was even a campaign, Save-The-Dress, to keep the dress on permanent public display in New York. The dress was sold last month in an auction to an unidentified bidder for an incredible $5.6 million. And that image is found plastered over t-shirts, bags, cushions, cards, wall clocks and every imaginable piece of merchandise even today.

Princess Leia’s Hairdo and Metal Bikini

Star Wars has created a whole class of fanatic fans and fantasy theorists. It has also given the male sex the memorable figure of Princess Leia Organa (played by Carrie Fisher) dressed in a metal bikini slave outfit after being captured by Jabba the Hutt in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. There are websites (www.leiasmetalbikini.com), video games, documentaries, and what-not dedicated entirely to this one outfit. It remains a popular outfit in the West, particularly for comic book conferences and Halloween parties.

Madonna’s Conical Bra

Madonna is probably the greatest influence on the fashion of the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Always changing, always outrageous, and yet it is easy to recall the most controversial of her outfits: the cone/bullet bra. It was designed by Jean Paul Gaultier and became the look for her Blonde Ambition tour. It stirred up widespread controversy on religious and moral objections and was thought to be too “sexual”. The design became hugely popular then and seems to be making a comeback now in Katy Perry videos, Kylie Minogue photoshoots and *cough* singers *cough* like Rihanna wearing it at award functions. The strangest part? The original was sold in an auction for almost $20,000 in 2001.

Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction

Uma Thurman was not director Quentin Tarantino’s first choice to play Mia Wallace. But what an incredible Mia Wallace she made. The flared pedal pushers, crisp white shirt and china doll wig she sported in the famous dance sequence with John Travolta became all the rage in 1994 and the outfit is the subject of various fashion magazine spreads even today. Simple and stylish, the look has been imitated and emulated endlessly. There certainly was a sharp spike in the number of blunt, banged haircuts.

Lady Gaga and her Meat Dress

Lady Gaga’s entire career is built on outlandish clothing, make-up and music videos. Every public appearance she has made has been in outfits ranging for the unusual to the grotesque. She toppled over into the utterly gross and horrible category with her dress, shoes, bag and headgear made of slabs of meat that she wore at an awards show. If the objective was to anger PETA and grab instant attention, however negative, she was hugely successful.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. King & Monroe deserved a mention right at the top...So does Lady Gaga who really belongs to the "bottom"! - smk

  3. Good attempt...But you missed out "punk"!

  4. You have looked at how some legendary celebrities have made iconic fashion statements which will always be remembered. But today, we see celebrities as having a severe impact on fashion trends for the regular person. What celebrities wear, and how they wear it (not Gaga) is emulated by the general public.

    Even if we look at something like hairstyles, David Beckham's hairstyles are always tracked very closely and closer to home something like Aamir's Ghajini hairstyle was emulated by many.

    What is concerning is the amount of attention that celebrity fashion gets in mainstream news. Even more in India, where Aishwarya Rai's dress becomes breaking news repeated countless times on TV.

    They influence our style of dressing and maybe even our perception of whats beautiful and 'in' more than we realize.

  5. Did'nt quite get the theme of this post if at all there was meant to be any. But quite well written, and good examples.

  6. What is fashion?

    Fashion is amusing at first glance, proliferates through the mass media, and becomes part of popular culture.

    Then, someone slaps a label on it, soon everyone is imitating it, and eventually, when it is in crying need of a change, someone bold steps in to do the dirty work once more.

    Fashion is a dancing baby, with one tiny rectangular exception...a price tag.

  7. An interesting examination of the pathbreaking trends in fashion which supplemented the talent of performers and were an integral part of their achieving iconic status.