Saturday, July 25, 2009

Michael Jackson: Fashion HIStory

Because Michael Jackson was such a massive pop-culture icon, nearly ever aspect of his iconography has been re-examined in light of his death--the music, the videos, the dancing, the bizarre behaviour, etc. A lot of people are over-saturated with of all of it by now, I think.

Most biographies typically pay some small homage to MJ's fashion throughout his career. I have always felt these segments to be cliched, repetitive and unsatisfying.
The typical overview of MJ's clothes merely tends to point out what is plainly evident anyways: the "Thriller" jacket, white rhinestone glove, fedora, etc. The guy was one of the biggest celebrities in the world. We all know what we wore.

In this posting, I hope to do more than make a list of what M. Jackson wore and when. Instead, I propose to comment as to why some of the outfits worked, and others less so.

Roll up your sleeves

There's no denying that Michael Jackson sported some great leather jackets during the Thriller years; specifically the Red/Black V jacket from the "Thriller" video and the red jacket from the "Beat It" video.
But one of the key elements that really added to the look was how MJ wore the jackets. By by adapting and rolling up the sleeves, Michael really owned the jackets. He really looked comfortable in them-- they weren't just showpieces.

Michael didn't only do this with his leather jackets, but also with his tuxedo jackets in both the "Don't Stop Til' You Get Enough" (see comments below) and "Billie Jean" videos.

Currently, Kanye West is pretty good at channeling this vibe with his jackets.

King of Pop

One of the ways Michael was able to successfully proclaim himself as the "King of Pop" was by dressing like a king. True, the outfits can also be taken as military uniforms, but heads of state often decorate themselves in military regalia.

I also think Michael put a nice spin on this, by glittering-up this uniform-- He was a king of POP after all.

In my opinion, this was Michael at his creative peak in his career, and it's no surprise that he looked his best in this era of his career.

"We Are the World" Video, 1985

Visiting the White House in 1984. Doesn't he look like a real life prince?

Prince of Wales

Prince of Pop, mid-80's

Having said that, I think Michael sometimes went over the top with the rhinestones and glitter, especially in the "Rock with you" video.

"Rock with You" screen captures, 1979

Victory tour, mid-80's

Man in the Mirrors

Because they prevent eye contact, sunglasses are also a great way to cultivate a mystique, especially when worn indoors. Michael perfected this to a "T".

Black or White

In the "Off the Wall" and "Thriller" years, Michael rocked the tuxedo. I loved the way Michael gave a casual flair to the look by dancing while holding the tuxedo jacket over his shoulder and by rolling up his sleeves (see comments above).

"Billie jean" video

"Off the Wall" promo pic, 1979

"Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" screen capture

Personal Quirks

Many fashion icons have a couple of unique style quirks that set them apart from everybody else. It's a great way to cultivate a mystique. However, it's equally important that the quirks aren't too overwhelming else the look simply becomes eccentric. Jackson fell victim to this in the latter part of his career.

But in his prime, Michael Jackson had no shortage of great quirks that only he could get away with. Some of the more famous ones:

  • white glove

  • white socks
  • cropped pants

This site gives a great, simple overview of his trade-mark pieces:

Unfortunately, after his fashion peak in 1984-5 or so, Michael's fashion sense steadily declined almost in lockstep with the demise of his music and public standing.

Not Bad

None of Michael Jackson's outfits during the "Bad" years (1987-1989) carried the same cultural impact as the Thriller years. He will never be remembered for anything he wore in this period, or anything after.

That being said, the outfits were decent in the "Bad" period. He primarily featured clothing with lots of buckles and straps, something he retained for the rest of his career.

"Bad tour", late 80's

"Bad" album cover, 1987

He also began sporting an arm band and fedora, both of which he would wear from time to time for the rest of life.

"Smooth Criminal" video, late 80's

For me, arm bands only look good on Nazis, and a fedora just never sat well with Michael's dainty face.

He also liked loose, plain-coloured, long-sleeved shirts (usually wore either a plain white tee shirt underneath or while bare chested). While I applaud the simplicity of this look, it didn't flatter his skinny physique. This look persisted well into the 1990's.

Dirty Diana video, late 1980's

"The way you make me feel" video, late 1980's

Dangerous and beyond (1992-2009)

As far as I'm concerned, by the time of the "Dangerous" album (1991) , Jackson's plastic surgery had caused him to look so freakish that it was distracting to anything he wore.

The Dangerous tour outfits were some weird combination of gold, sci-fi, and S&M.

"Remember the Time" video

Michael also wore an open, loose-fitting white shirt in the "Black or White" video

In the years that followed ("HIStory" (1995) and "Invincible" (2001)), MJ, adopted a mishmash of styles listed above.

  • fedoras and arm bands

  • straps, buckles, shinpads and rhinestones

In the final years from his trial and leading up to his death, Michael's fashions were just downright eccentric: lots of silk, embroidery, tacky arm bands, and formal-wear worthy of a bad prom.

When combined with his truly bizarre facial features, the look was often shocking (and I won't even both discussing the masks, veils and bandages). Sadly, the decline in his appearance seemed to dovetail with the decline in the quality of his music and creativity. My own preference is to remember Michael when he was at his creative peak in music, fashion and dance.

-The Scandal

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Best of Women's Fall 2009 RTW

I've decided to compile some of my favorite looks of Fall 2009 RTW collections. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Haider Ackerman

I loved Ackerman's collection. I thought that his use of long silk skirts/dresses with jackets gave an edgy spin.

2. Givenchy

Riccardo Tisci did an amazing job combining different textures together. I really enjoyed seeing some classical pieces, well tailored suits, and just an overall elegance.

3. Dsquared
My fave Canadian duo was inspired by the Olsen twins. I loved how they were able to combine the everyday wear with evening gowns i.e. leather jacket with a scarf and a long silky dress. Street wear and hobo chic seems to be a prominent theme this season.

4. Bottega Veneta

I thoroughly enjoyed the Bottega Veneta collection as well. Tomas Maier always manages to carry through well tailored garments. His pieces tend to be very elegant and designed for the glamorous ladies. The idea of wearing a white jacket in the fall really stuck my fancy

5. Balmain

Last but not least, Balmain, certainly has been the "it" label for the past few seasons. Decarnin inspired endless collections with his 80's themed jackets, dresses and skirts. I have to give him credit for inspiring me to wear the ultra high-waisted skirt and plain white t-shirt ensemble.

Worst of Women's Fall 2009 RTW

What were they thinking?

Here are some ideas which I thought were a "bit" over the top.

1. Prada

Whilst analyzing the main influences behind Miuccia Prada's 2009 fall collection, only two ideas come to mind: Dead People and Fisherman's Boots.



2. Blumarine

I've always been a fan of Blumarine, but Anna Molinari really went overboard with the hodgepodge of well... anything she could think of, I guess.

Here's a recipe for a disaster. Take your blender and put in the following ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

1. A leopard
2. Ukrainian singer/disaster Verka Serduchka
3. Something you wore in the 80's




3. Louis Vuitton

Sometimes even if a designer outfit looks ridiculous at first, one can certainly dissect it and pick out something that can actually work. Sadly, I can't see anything from this ensemble that I can wear, except maybe some bunny ears for Halloween. The purse and the shoes will have to be overlooked with this one, for obvious reasons.

Bunny Ears

Alber Elbaz's borrowed jacket