What will people wear to parties in the future?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. There’s an upcoming scene in Universe Gun which calls for a large number of extras in the form of a virtual party crowd, and I’ve done a few sketches for the month of Inktober preparing for this.
As a gross simplification, fashion follows something of a 30 year cycle, with the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s cycling over and over. The 1980’s took the 1950’s aesthetics of drainpipe jeans and traditional sexual roles and re-invented them after the looser and more gender-fluid 1970s. The 1990s saw a return of granny glasses, mop-tops and union jacks as Britpop recycled the Beatles. Maybe the pattern ended there, as the 1970’s didn’t so much come back as lose their stigma. As time has moved on from the invention of youth culture in the 1950s we’ve also seen a fraying of the uniform fashions. Punk was possibly the last didactic fashion movement, the last one to say that everyone should follow it now, and everything before that was wrong. After that we saw more of a split into subcultures, with new romantics, goths, post-punks and others co-existing.
You probably know where in this cycle I gravitate towards – the 1970s. My initial aim for the party guests was to invent a post 1970s sci-fi look of flares, afros, rounded corners and star emblems. In Pazuzu! I created a retro-1970s look that’s meant to look out of date, hairy chest, silk shirts and dungarees. My intention for the party-goers was that they would be more Burning Man than Burt Reynolds, a blend of 90’s tribal, classic 1970s and the strange mix of goofy and sexy from the 21st C freakout/festival, as seen here.
I had a quick dip into the 1980’s last week on a trip to Melbourne, which gave me the chance to check out the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the National Gallery. For those of you who don’t know that name, he’s the enfant terrible of the 80s and 90s French fashion world, with an instantly recognisable post-punk playful trashy and provocative style. His designs has graced movies such as The Fifth Element, City of Lost Children, and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. He also designed Madonna’s cone bra – one of his most iconic pieces. I learned something new at this exhibition – what the phrase haute couture actually means. It’s a set of rules for producing individual garments that focuses on hand made craft. Seeing this description next to a mermaid dress with scales made from different sized sequins really brought this home – how much work has gone into each piece to give it unique textures and visual effects that your eyes absorb in one big gulp without immediately seeing all the incredible detail. A bit like a comic page in some ways?
Needless to say, I picked up a few ideas as I wandered amongst his work. Why had I never thought of shag-pile thigh-high Ugg boots before? Which came first, Moebius‘ isolation suits in The Goddess, or Jean Pauls’ tweed gimp suit?
I took a few photographs at the exhibition, but tried to capture my impressions in a series of quick sketches in the gallery afterwards, drawing straight to ink.
The aforementioned thigh-high furry Ugg boots on the left came form a sketch in the exhibition that I tried to replicate here. The third guy along’s lace-up rugby ball crotch appeared on a flier for one of Jean Paul’s shows, and the dude besides him sports the ubiquitous mariner top. I recently read an article about 1970s fashion that pointed out how it was the only decade to sexualise men as well as woman, giving us touchy-feely silk shirts, long hair (on the head, upper lip and chest!) and tight pants that show everything off. As a gay designer, Jean Paul tends to do the same in his own inimitable way, such as transforming the traditional French mariner into a crop top worn with opera gloves. His use of trans models, and models of varying body types is inspiring, and very much in line with the inclusive-sexy aesthetic I’m trying to create for Universe Gun, as opposed to exploitative-sexy.
I’ll leave you with a couple of music videos that have part of the look I’ll be aiming for:
Who thought throwing a party on the page could be so much work?
See you in seven, scientists of style! Dr Mike 2000, 2 Nov 2014