Happy New Year! Can you even believe it’s 2016? It feels like yesterday that it was 1986. It seems that the older I get, the faster time goes. I remember spending what felt like forever daydreaming about what it would be like to be a grown up, and now I am one, I barely ever get time to stop and think.
This post isn’t going to have any photos of me, because even though it’s about my fashion taste, it’s about my influences and I want to devote the post to someone who has been the most important style influence in my life.
The latest Plus 40 Fabulous theme is to talk about how our childhood and teen years influenced our fashion style. For me, this is very timely, with the passing of David Bowie on Monday (Australian time), which frankly has left me bereft. All week since I heard the news, I’ve just felt the deepest sense of loss.
Even though Bowie had been around my whole life, I didn’t really “discover” him until I was 12. I had of course heard of him before, how could you not in those years, but I was probably too young yet to connect. I remember very clearly seeing the video for Let’s Dance for the first time (it was shot in Australia) and just being blown away. I then began scouring all the pop magazines for more info on him and remember this was pre-internet, so if you didn’t have money to buy albums, you had to wait until songs came on the radio! He had a new album out by this time and I remember hearing Blue Jean and seeing the music video on TV. I found his back catalogue and was absolutely in love with the whole idea of him.
For Christmas I begged for cassettes of his music and I desperately wanted a poster for my bedroom wall. I was given Heroes and Let’s Dance, and a cousin gave me a massive poster of him in a grey suit from his Serious Moonlight tour. I had that poster on my bedroom wall for nearly a decade until it fell to bits. I’ve always wanted to replace it with a framed one.
You see, I was a weird kid. Described often as “off with the fairies”, I was always daydreaming and making up stories in my head, imagining far away places, magical creatures, interesting people and great deeds of bravery and kindness. I was chubby and loved anything that was colourful and had a fantasy feel to it. I had already discovered the New Romantic movement a couple of years earlier and loved Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Adam Ant, and so many others, all of which was considered “weird” in the conservative small town I grew up in. I didn’t have a good family life so music was my escape – all those beautiful people in their amazing exotic looking clothes, dancing and expressing all the things I felt. I wanted to dress like them, in pirate boots and frilly shirts and with bright makeup and floppy hair, but I just wasn’t allowed to. My parents and brother regularly ridiculed me for all the things I liked, and when I went to school I was called a freak and a weirdo too. I never felt I fit in anywhere.
And then I found Bowie. In finding his back catalogue, I found a chameleon of a man who was willing to try anything in the name of his art. He changed his look and music style and influences as often as he put out an album. His lyrics spoke to all the freaks and weirdos and told them they had a place in the world. Remember, he wasn’t conventionally attractive for the time either. He was unfashionably (for the time) super thin, often coloured his hair in obnoxious gingers and brassy blondes, had strange mis-matched eyes and crooked teeth. He was deliciously weird, and I felt like had found a kindred spirit in the world. Someone who was weird like me.
And then there was Labyrinth. I can remember being at a relatives house and begging to be allowed to turn the television on so that I could watch a special documentary programme, Inside The Labyrinth (you can watch it here) because I knew that Bowie was going to be in the movie. I was allowed to watch it, probably to shut me up, and I was transfixed. I loved Jim Hensen’s work, had been a big fan of The Dark Crystal and The Muppet Show, and to know that Bowie was going to be working with Muppets, it was everything I ever dreamed of. It was when I first discovered Ron Mueck’s art (still my favourite artist) and was the first instance of CGI I can remember seeing – the owl from the opening credits was revolutionary technology for it’s time. I remember going to see the movie and loving every second of it. I could identify with Sarah’s dreaminess, I loved all of the heroic characters, and of course then there was Jareth, the Goblin King, in those tight, tight, tight pants.
It is still to this day one of my favourite films of all time. I’m listening to that song above and sobbing my eyes out as I write this. I miss him so much already, and I never met him. There’s only one other who affected me this way, and it is Freddie Mercury. I hope they’re together, wherever they are.
As to how it has influenced my style today, who isn’t influenced by David Bowie at some point in his career in modern culture? Everything after him has been touched by him. But there are certain style elements that I love now that are still ever so influenced Bowie and his career. Bold patterned tights and leggings. Chunky and bold coloured/patterned shoes. Blue eyeshadow. Metallics and glitter. Big hair with flowers and ribbons a la Sarah in the ballroom scene in Labyrinth. Pastel jackets. Bold prints. Space themed prints. Colour. Colour. Colour. But most of all, the quirky, the new, the different, the brave, and most of all the strange.
In the words of my favourite Bowie song:
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through
(Turn and face the strange)
Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
(Turn and face the strange)
Where’s your shame
You’ve left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can’t trace time