Music and fashion: the perfect combo

So many words could be written about the relationship between fashion and music, music and fashion. And it’s a relationship that stretches back more than 100 years. In 1924, Coco Chanel revolutionised dancewear for the stage by dressing the dancers in Le Train Bleu, a Russian ballet based on a scenario by Jean Cocteau. Ever since, fashion has been a constant source of inspiration for generations of singers, sometimes even helping to forge their legend. Here, we shine a spotlight on the artists who were proud of their own distinctives styles.



It would be extremely naive to think that the aura surrounding an artist is merely the sum of their performances, whether in song or on stage. Some artists also leave an indelible mark in the collective memory through their striking identities. This is with thanks to fashion in particular, which provides a vector for some of them to express their creativity and what makes them so unique. Slash’s iconic top hat; Bowie’s eccentric outfits; Prince’s purple ensembles... These details which may at first seem to be of secondary importance, in actual fact helped forge their identities, to set them apart. 

And sartorial style is just as important for the artists themselves as for the fans, becoming a way to affirm their membership of a group, people with whom they shared a common interest. Let’s take the “Bobby-Soxers”, for example. These teenage Americans were fans of crooners like Sinatra back in the 1940s, and began to copy their idols’ dress-sense. Their favourite outfit? Absolutely unmistakable. A voluminous skirt, short, pleated “bobby” socks, and flat shoes. If you look at the musical trends that emerged over the 20th century, you’ll realise that each of them had their own accompanying dress code. The “mod” style (short for “modernist”) inspired by the 60s (The Kinks, The Who, etc.), hippie style, punk, the grunge look, etc. Every decade has its own style of music and accompanying dress-sense. 



Though their fashion sense may seem to be indistinguishable from an artist’s personality, it’s because, today more than ever, image is everything. Indeed, some music videos or gigs make a more lasting impression than the songs themselves.Is it possible, for example, to think of David Bowie without also thinking about his outlandish outfits, often created by designers?On the Ziggy Stardust Tour in 1972-1973, David Bowie enlisted designer Kansai Yamamoto for his stage costumes. These conceptual garments, inspired by kabuki (a kind of traditional Japanese theatre) have now become cult items, and an integral part of Bowie’s image. Yamamoto’s colourful and genderless creations, and the “Tokyo Pop” costume in particular, also helped forge the identity of Bowie’s alter-ego, Ziggy Stardust. 

When it comes to music videos, George Michael’s “Too Funky”, released in 1992, deserves special mention. The now legendary video is a perfect incarnation of 90s aesthetics. Famous models (Eva Herzigova, Nadja Auermann, Tyra Banks, etc.) put on a Thierry Mugler fashion show in flimsy outfits, celebrating the female body. The outfits include Mugler’s famous motorcycle bustier, designed for his spring/summer 1992 line. Fifteen years later, Mugler would recreate the very same bustier for Beyoncé, who would wear in on stage on her I Am... World Tour. Thierry Mugler would play a major role in this tour, designing no fewer than 58 stage costumes for Beyoncé and her team. The fashion designer would also be appointed as artistic director, overseeing the décor and lighting design. Like David Bowie and George Michael before her, Queen B doesn’t do things by halves when it comes to her image. In 2014, Beyonce released an extremely noteworthy video: “Yonce”. As if in a nod to George Michael’s video for “Freedom 90”, the star invited famous models to appear in the video, and donned a scandalous ripped orange body suit, designed by Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent.


One of the 60s and 70s iconic singers, Cher was also a fashion icon who stood out – just as she continues to do today – for her inimitable style. And yet, back in the 70s, the diva was subject to plenty of criticism. On what grounds? Her daring, flamboyant outfits, designed by Bob Mackie. At the 59th Oscars in 1986, Cher made a memorable appearance. There to present the Oscar for the Best Supporting Actor, Cher appeared in a sequined outfit that was barely there at all, composed of a long skirt and a mini crop top. And all topped off with a particularly extravagant haircut. It was a way for the diva to take ownership of her image, at a time when the tabloid press were gossiping about her scandalous and liberated lifestyle. Because for women back then, however adulated they may be, fashion was a way to sidestep the conventions and expectations of the time.  

A few years later, though, and it was Madonna’s turn to stand out through her particularly provocative outfits. Her most famous stage costume remains to this day the flesh coloured corset that Jean-Paul Gaultier designed for her Blonde Ambition Tour in 1990. With this corset, Madonna showed she had no fear of overturning the established order, giving political correctness the finger. Her message was clear: she was a woman free to wear whatever she wanted. While it was an avant-garde attitude back then, Madonna’s message remains just as relevant today. In 2021, 31 years after Madonna’s Blonde Ambition Tour, women are still fighting to be able to do what they want with their bodies. Whether artists are playing with gender boundaries or the norms of the day, the way they dress is more than just an outfit. It is a way to push back against the status quo and dogmatic thinking, a way to express their own ideas. And is not that, in short, all we ask of an artist?