Sure, David Bowie was a legendary rock star, but he was also a renowned style icon whose distinctive wardrobe choices will influence fashion forever. For Bowie, nothing was off limits: eye patches, skinny pants, makeup, sequined onesies and pastel-colored suits all made their way into his wardrobe as he introduced the androgynous look to ’70s-era society. Even when he traded his crazy clothes for a more refined look – think debonair blazers, wide trousers, and retro fedoras – his choices seemed fresh, stylish and deliberate. Here’s a look at how Bowie, who died Sunday after an 18-month battle with cancer, changed fashion forever.
The “Starman” singer left an indelible impact on fashion, opting for creative looks that were a perfect match for his forward-looking musical style. He reinvented himself with every album release; a nod to the power of creative wardrobe styling. “He was the master of making you feel that you didn’t necessarily know him,” says stylist and TV personality June Ambrose. “You never knew what to expect and it made you want more and more of him. He had such an understanding of what it meant to live in the moment.”
An early adoptee of the androgynous look (way before stars like his collaborator Tilda Swinton made it their signature), Bowie often opted for gender-blurring style staples like platform shoes and graceful blouses. “He loved women and their bodies and he wasn’t afraid to put on their pants and heels,” says Ambrose. “I think that was such an important voice, especially now when you think of the transgender community. He represented individual expression, which so many makeup and clothing companies are doing now.”
And for the record, fashion designers are still inspired by use Bowie’s fierce style. “Now, looking at runway trends you don’t know what’s for a women or men,” says Ambrose. “Saint Laurent’s latest collection is a great example of that.”
His quirky outfits may have looked outlandish, but Bowie’s fashion sense – unique, colorful and incredibly memorable – helped set the standard for pop star style. “Without David Bowie, there’s no Madonna, Elton John or Lady Gaga,” says Mindy Project designer Salvador Perez. But Bowie didn’t do it for sheer shock factor. Says Perez: “For him, it wasn’t about being outrageous. It was natural, artistic expression.”