Is there a fashionista alive who can deny cribbing a look from a music video? WWD tunes into videos from the past, and those nominated this year for an MTV VMA, to find some classic looks.
This story first appeared in the August 29, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Pink, “Get the Party Started”
There aren’t many pop divas today who can mix high and low fashion with such aplomb and who have the vocal talent to match their sartorial skills. In “Get the Party Started,” Pink sports an Alexander McQueen skirt, Vivienne Westwood and YSL tops, a Chopard diamond bracelet, a Patricia Field cross necklace, dollar-store door-knocker earrings, Giuseppe Zanotti and Cesare Paciotti shoes and Christian Dior shades. “I would love to take credit for it, but a major percentage is hers because she knows what she likes,” said stylist Derek Kahn. “She is exactly what a Cyndi Lauper or Madonna were then.” While she’s now varying her shocking-pink crop with black and white-blond, her signature look has influenced teens as well as another pink-tressed MTV star, Kelly Osbourne. Of the Dolce & Gabbana shirt Pink wore ripped and twisted around her body in an earlier video, Kahn said, “Very few people have the courage to take a $3,000 blouse and destroy it.” MTV veejay Molly Sims added, “A few years ago people were making fun of Pink, but look what a big statement she is making now with her hair.”
Avril Lavigne, “Complicated”
The 17-year-old pop princess may have one of the most overplayed songs at the moment, but it’s hard to get tired of such unfettered, youthful style. A far cry from Britney’s oversexed brand of pop, Lavigne’s “real girl” approach (much like her fellow guitar-playing teen nominee, Michelle Branch) makes her more accessible to young fans. Although she’s Canadian, Lavigne wears skater-girl chic to a T, with glam touches like ironed straight hair and kohl-lined eyes. “I just take what she is in real life and step it up,” said stylist Trish Summerville. “I’m not a big fan of the fashion show video. She only has two changes. “Interestingly, the baggy pants, ribbed men’s undershirt with exposed black bra straps and black-and-white striped arm sock is the same outfit Gwen Stefani sports in No Doubt’s 1997 video “Excuse Me Mister.”
Britney Spears, “I’m a Slave 4 U”
For better or for worse, Britney has made an impact on the way young women dress today, and that’s due in no small part to the iconic looks she shows off in each of her videos, like this year’s nominee, “I’m a Slave 4 U.” “The song was so hot that we decided the video should be set on a fantasy island playing on the ‘slave’ reference,” said her stylist Kurt. The flowy, slit-sleeved top Kurt and his partner Bart designed for Spears evokes a harem image, and they paired it with a Middle Eastern-inspired belt decorated with “slave” charms. Of course, Britney wouldn’t be Britney without her low-rise jeans, which flatter her form while she burns up the dance floor.
No Doubt, “Hey Baby”
For nearly a decade, Gwen Stefani has been years ahead of the fashion game. Looking over No Doubt’s earlier videos, it’s easy to see what may have inspired Cameron Diaz’s flip-and-feather look and this year’s runway makeup, not to mention teenage girls around the world. As dynamic a performer as she is a dresser, Stefani has gone through looks ranging from the Indian-bindi craze to Old Hollywood glam to nouveau punk. But there’s always a common thread holding together her aesthetic, whether it’s her plaid tie or brightly painted lips. In “Hey Baby,” a video that mirrors the Steven Sprouse-inspired graffiti album cover, Stefani wears D&G’s equally graphic black-and-white houndstooth jacket with cropped pants and her now-signature bikini top. Noted stylist Andrea Lieberman, “Gwen is so multidimensional that it’s impossible to show all her sides in just one video.” Sims added, “Gwen Stefani by far has the best style out there. She and Madonna are the two best stories. She doesn’t follow a trend, she sets them like Madonna.”
Alicia Keys, “A Woman’s Worth”
This New York native is another one with style and musical talent in spades. Whether it’s a leopard print Roberto Cavalli top, Christian Dior Couture’s hooded chiffon sheath, or her own custom-made denim paired with uptown-chic touches like veiled hats and lace gloves, Keys knows what she likes. “We were so excited when we saw Alicia wearing D&G in ‘A Woman’s Worth,’” said Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. “Since then, she has opted to wear pieces from both D&G and Dolce & Gabbana, and the combination of both lines is very representative of her personal style. We love the grace, courage and style with which she is willing to experiment.” Even though the young diva hasn’t yet toyed with her trademark cornrows and natural makeup, given the opportunity, we wouldn’t change a thing. Said Sims: “Alicia brought back the cornrows. It’s great that she knows what she likes and she speaks to what she likes.”
Cyndi Lauper, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”
It had all the elements of early-Eighties zeitgeist: catchy ditty, adorable singer, charming narrative and feel-good girl power. Of course, Lauper’s strapless red crinoline dress and spiky orange hair were also hard to miss. She might not have inspired a million look-alikes the way Gwen Stefani does today, but her look wasn’t available at malls nationwide, and vintage shopping wasn’t yet a common practice for the average teen. Although, said rock author and former MTV staffer Michael Shore, “I do think some girls emulated her disheveled thrift-store look because that was accessible.”
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts,
“I Love Rock ’n’ Roll”
Joan Jett did what Patti Smith did before her, but she was one of the first rocker chicks to do it on MTV. Her leather pants, studded bracelets and clunky boots have remained a staple in the music world. Likewise, her kohl-rimmed eyes, spiky hair and sexy pout have become beauty basics. Of her signature shag, her songwriting partner Kenny Laguna remembered, “She changed it when she opened a magazine, saw a picture of Nicky Sixx and thought it was her. She decided she’d become a cliché.” Even the twentysomething actress Rachael Leigh Cook, who played a rocker in last year’s “Josie and the Pussycats,” said, “Joan Jett was like my idol. I always wanted to be a rocker like her, and now I’ve played one.”
Madonna, “Material Girl”
It’s hard to say which of Madonna’s early videos best embodies her iconic status even then, but it’s fair to say “Material Girl” was one of the best. With its cheeky play on Marilyn Monroe’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” Madonna abandoned her black-clad, bow-wearing persona for four minutes of pure, stylish fun — and cemented an eternal image, not to mention a moniker that follows her to this day, even though she’s now the “Material Mom.”
Robert Palmer, “Simply Irresistible”
It wasn’t so much Robert Palmer’s look we wanted to emulate in “Simply Irresistible,” as much as the beautiful models who grooved behind him with their slicked back hair, lacquered lips and tight minidresses. “City girls were already wearing stretch dresses, high heels and red lips, but after that video, mall girls everywhere were in latex and Lurex!” said MTV’s Shore. The video, directed by the late fashion photographer Terence Donovan, became a paean for pure style over narrative, and influenced a whole genre of videos where musicians looked good while doing nothing in particular — just for the sake of being cool.
Pat Benatar, “Love Is a Battlefield”
Pat Benatar was another of the Eighties’ best-loved rockers — for her fierce voice and signature style. She, too, took the narrative video to new heights, incorporating choreography, drama and style into a few short, memorable minutes. In “Love Is a Battlefield,” she became a teenage-runaway-turned-call-girl who rebels against her oppressors and (once again) takes to the streets in song and dance, showing that music and style can conquer all.