The world’s gone Gaga
As the Gaga juggernaut sweeps back into town this week for a second stab at her British tour, we thought it was time to take stock of the great lady’s fashion effect. Sure, she has kept pages here alight over the past two years with her increasingly outlandish yet creatively brilliant and witty parade of outfits, but — and this is a big but — we fear some are taking it a little too literally. PVC pants, sheer leotards and the drawers-and-jacket combo are suddenly in town centres, bars and pubs in the broad daylight of 7pm British Summer Time. Much to the horror of dads everywhere, Gaga’s look, once seen as shocking, is suddenly inspiring teenagers (and upwards) all over the country.
Lucy McGarry, 28, a retail manager, loves wearing underwear as outerwear. “I’ve got an Agent Provocateur leopard-print body that I wear out without a skirt or shorts, and I love working those 1940s bullet bras — showing them off is a fun look. I’ve also tried Gaga-esque hair with neat rollers, which I’ve kept in for a cool daytime style, though I did get some funny stares. In east London at the weekends, you see some extreme examples of the Gaga look — bodies teamed with the full-on hair and make-up — but I prefer to pick one element. It’s a bit over the top to wear it all at once.”
Jackie Dixon, a photographer and the author of the ShowMeYour Wardrobe.com blog, says: “So often, when I shoot people for my blog, they will suddenly pull out a pair of sunglasses or a fierce dress and start sucking in their cheeks, saying, ‘I’m channelling Gaga.’ She inspires so many people to up the ante, stand out from the crowd and be creative with their fashion choices.” Not a bad thing in itself, but, ahem, we don’t all have the thighs.
“Gaga has paved the way for people to be more individual,” says Karen Bonsor, the head of design at Topshop. “Our jersey leotards, whether they are printed, plain or embellished, have been a surprise bestseller across the country.”
Lady G’s mission has always been to blend mainstream music with outer style, and as a result she has brought niche designers, directional headgear and drag-queen make-up direct to the middle-of-the-road audience. Red lace bodysuits, telephone hats, bubble dresses, Kermit the Frog as couture and, most recently, a purple rinse and witch’s cloak — her look is a mash-up of goth style, bondage porn and surrealism. And it’s not only the Asos-buying Saturday-night girl who has been captivated by her flesh-baring Daliesque look.
Gaga has changed the fashion game for every performer — all female popstrels are now conscious of their need to up their stage presence. From Beyonce to Kylie, Rihanna to Fergie, divas have had to take a rain check on their usual stylists. Even Leona Lewis has been rocking a face mask, for goodness’ sake. But ladies, take note. As Katy Perry recently told Rolling Stone magazine: “There’s no competing with Lady Gaga. She’ll just f***ing run you over. She eats, breathes and shits that stuff.”
While Gaga maintains that imitation is the highest form of flattery, allegations of copycat styling have been levelled at stars such as “Clonetina” (Christina Aguilera), whose video for Not Myself Tonight features her in latex corsets and tight-fitting bra tops. It’s seen by some to be a blatant rip-off of the Mother Monster’s signature look. Aguilera, who once said she was “completely unaware of” Gaga and “didn’t know if it was a man or a woman”, seems now to have been fully briefed.
What’s clear is that it’s Gaga and her “factory” of collaborators, the Haus of Gaga (some say they don’t exist, but don’t we love the idea?), who are setting the bar in terms of music style. Jess Mills, the singer with the group His Girl Friday, is currently working on her costumes and on-stage persona in preparation for a tour with Leftfield this summer. She believes Gaga’s inspiration is stimulating originality. “In the female pop market, there is a sense you have to be as relevant and current as possible, so there is bound to be pressure to produce the same kind of energy Gaga is bringing to the table. But I don’t think that means that other singers aren’t taking that inspiration and making it their own. If she’s raised the bar, it can only be a good thing for women in the industry.” And for her own look? “The Karen O [the Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman] and Florence + the Machine style is more my thing than Lady Gaga, to be honest.”
Despite her outlandish outfits, Gaga has few style detractors. Even high fashion is gagging to get into bed with her. Prada dressed her for the Met Gala, and her collaboration with Armani for the Grammys has been reprised for her new tour costumes. She has also championed several young British names, such as the edgy knitwear designer Craig Lawrence and the A-list favourite David Koma.
Now, having just become the first pop star to hit 1 billion views of her videos on YouTube and Vevo, and with four UK No1s under her belt, all eyes will be on her next style move. Just pray that nipple tassels and merkins aren’t in line for a high-street debut.
The lady loves…
“In addition to her formidable songwriting skills, she’s a modern fashion phenomenon,” says Giorgio Armani of Lady G. Since creating her costumes for the Grammys, Armani has worked on a selection of outfits for her Monster Ball tour, including futuristic frocks and gravity-defying shoes.
Gaga found him first, then Beyoncé and Ms Cole were hot on her heels. Koma describes Gaga as “someone who appears to challenge herself and everyone else in showbiz”.
Dolce & Gabbana
For AW10, the guardians of European sexuality opened their show with the Gaga silhouette — sharp jacket, no trousers and some very well-cut pants.
He’s America’s answer to Henry Holland, and Gaga is a fan of Scott’s quirky prints and cartoon appeal, sporting his denim creations on stage and off. Most recently, she has championed his printed condoms. As you do.