“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” – Bachel Zoe
Fashion is what Italian fashion houses like ‘Gucci’ and ‘Versace’ or even French fashion brands like ‘Louis Vuitton’ and ‘Chanel’ do. More experienced people would probably talk about the cyberpunk-inspired fashion of Japan and South Korea or even mention the legendary British fashion houses like ‘McQueen’ and ‘Vivienne Westwood’. America is not the first place that comes to mind when you think of fashion especially not back then. Sure, there were likes of Jackie Kennedy or Marilyn Monroe or Cher who had iconic fashion moments, but those were still few.
Although New York is still one of the big fours of fashion week, people are still wary of American fashion. When Met Gala announced ‘American Fashion’ as their theme, people online were confused and puzzled, the theme was heavily made fun of, compared to previous years’ themes, this almost felt like a downgrade.
Although we have seen a rise of more avant-garde and risqué fashion due to icons such as Rihanna and Lady Gaga, this still a recent development barely decades old. Before we had Lady Gaga’s meat dress or Rihanna’s Fenty line, we had Cher.
Who is Cher?
Cher is an American singer-songwriter, actress, and TV personality. Commonly referred to as the ‘Goddess of Pop’, she is famous for her distinctive contralto singing voice. Cher rose to fame alongside her then-husband Sonny Bono, as the folk-rock husband-wife duo Sonny & Cher, after their song “I Got You Babe“ peaked at number one on both the US and UK charts. By the 1970s the pair had become a household name due to their CBS show ‘The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour‘. By the 1980’s she had also established herself as an actress and even won an academy award for best actress for her role in Moonstruck (1987). She also made her directorial debut in 1996 with the abortion-themed anthology ‘If These Walls Could Talk’ where she directed a segment that received widespread critical acclaim after premiering on HBO.
Apart from all of these, Cher is also a fashion icon. Time magazine has described Cher as a cultural phenomenon that has forever changed the way we see celebrity fashion. Cher has become famous for her unique and risky looks. Cher has always disregarded the ongoing trends and created her own. She has championed the more artistic and boundary-breaking rules and has caused huge controversies with her daring looks. She has revolutionized the American fashion industry with her extraordinary fashion moments.
What is American Fashion?
Most of the American fashion moments came from the red carpets of Hollywood premiers. Hollywood movies inspired women and men all across the country and most of them tried to replicate old stars. Famous among this era was Grace Kelly, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, and obviously Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. Audrey Hepburn’s black Givenchy dress in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s is perhaps one of the most famous little black dress of all time. Marilyn Monroe has had many famous fashion moments; perhaps her most iconic outfit is the pink dress in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blonde’ which has since been recreated dozens of times by Madonna, Normani, and many others. Her Sheer bedazzled dress for John. Kennedy’s birthday is another one of her memorable looks.
Apart from old Hollywood glam, there were many other famous fashion trends. Hippie and boho fashion were at an all-time high in the 1960s. Thrifted loose and tie-dyed flowy clothes were the go-to outfits of the time. This movement gained huge popularity as it saw more people embracing change and love and peace, and was strongly against the culture of war, specifically the Vietnam War of the time.
The 90s saw the rise of the grunge trend due to Nirvana’s popularity. The grunge aesthetic consists mainly of thrifted t-shirts, tight denim, and chunky boots. The 2000s saw the rise of two different trends. One was the hip-hop and athleisure trend popularized by rappers and the black community. The other more infamous one was the Y2K fashion. Made famous by celebrities like Paris Hilton, Destiny’s Child, Christina Aguilera, and more. This trend mainly featured a bright and bold look with glitter, sequins, and bedazzled everything.
Cher’s Influence on American Fashion
Cher is perhaps one of the most prolific and divisive fashionistas out there. The only contemporary contender coming close to her legacy would perhaps be Lady Gaga or Rihanna. She has consistently pushed the boundaries of fashion in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Decades have passed but her red-carpet styles remain as daring as ever, incorporating velvet corsets, taffeta trains, top-to-bottom glitter, and sequins and so much more. In the 60s, where the beehive hairdo was the norm, Cher made headlines with her sleek straight hair. She remained bold and perpetually pushed the boundaries when it came to how much skin she revealed and famously drew the ire of the CBS for exposing her naval. Throughout this decade she continued to shine, while everyone wore the regular tuxedo and gown, she would show up in outrageous pieces, bedazzled jumpsuits, crazy headgears, and much more.
We cannot talk about Cher’s fashion without mentioning her legendary collaborations with Bob Mackie.
Robert Gordon Mackie American fashion designer and costumier, best known for his dressing of entertainment icons such as Cher, Judy Garland, Elton John, Liza Minnelli, Joan Rivers, Diana Ross, RuPaul, Tina Turner, Vanna White and so many more. He was the visionary behind Cher’s jaw-dropping looks. Perhaps one of their famous works together was Cher’s 1986 Academy Awards’ red carpet look, where she wore an exotic ensemble of a bejewelled loincloth, black stretch pants, a black chainlink top, knee-high boots, and a huge feathered Mohawk headpiece that was one and a half times taller than her head. Another one of her looks that is still being replicated to this day was her 1974 Met Gala look where she wore a very sheer dress with fringes. While this may seem normal today but it was big deal in the 70s.
Cher’s Influence on Modern Pop Stars
Music has always been hand in hand with fashion. Most fashion trends are a direct result of the popularity of a pop star or a rock star. We have seen this with Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna in the past. And now we have the new ones like Doja Cat and Dua Lipa, who are being experimental and fashion-forward. But before all of them, there were the likes of Cher and Dianna Ross. The previously mentioned pop stars along with Jennifer Lopez and even Kim Kardashian have named Cher as their style icon. Cher was clearly the inspiration behind Dua Lipa’s Versace dress at the Grammy’s. This influence is clearly visible when you look at their recent outfits. Kim Kardashian’s 2015 Met Gala outfit was a direct remake of Cher’s iconic Met Gala look.
Even after decades, Cher still retains her sense of fun and is experimental. She has inspired generations to feel good about themselves. She has continuously disregarded the conventional beauty standard and done her own thing. Her daring looks challenged the authorities of the time. Her fearless and daring attitude championed feminism and paved the path for others after her.
She brought huge limelight on fashion in America. Her looks and outfits drew attention from across the world. Her work with Mackie established him at the forefront of American fashion of the time. She completely revolutionized the American fashion industry and has set the precedent for female pop stars for years to come.