Music & Fashion Intertwined

Caroline Kotterer
A deeper look into the blurred boundaries between music and fashion

Music is the soundtrack to our lives. Whether you’re waking up in the morning, walking to class, or taking a shower music can accompany these small activities. Putting together an outfit requires much more than just background noise. When deciding on whether to wear those edgy ripped jeans or trendy high-rise bell bottoms, our phones can be a good resource for finding inspiration from celebrities. Over the years many famous musicians have collaborated with large fashion companies, Kanye West getting involved with Adidas and Lady Gaga with Versace are just a couple examples showing how music and fashion go hand-in-hand. 

Going back as early as the 1920’s one can see the influence music has on fashion. Jazz was born from the influences of Western traditional music and African Dance, and was almost exclusively played at speakeasies and nightclubs where the scene was ethnically diverse. The music was in fact very scandalous for the time period because of its allusions to X-Rated subjects and was often referred to as “The Devil’s Music.” Moreover, jazz music had strong feminist undertones flying in the face of traditional women’s roles. 

Clothing became loose so one could freely move when dancing to the “Charleston” or other famous dances. In the Fashion Source book of the 1920s, Author Peacock states that an average ensemble for evening wear in 1927 would consist of: “A sleeveless mesh dress embroidered with gold sequins, a low V-shaped neckline, a loosely fitted bodice, and a flared short skirt. Gold kid shoes and matching handbag, along with a long string of pearls.” Flapper fashion was a mark of rebellion, and as this style took off jazz music became more widespread and slowly changed the minds of the older generations’ thoughts on the devil’s music. Although, Vogue had already been established, it really started to have an influence on consumers during this turning point.

Fast forwarding to the trippy, psychedelic, vibrant decade of the 1960’s, rock evolved from artists such as Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and many more. Amidst the Vietnam War something called the “counterculture movement” came about with the goal of attaining peace and prosperity. Music became more about free love, recreational drugs and was instantly more psychedelic. As a result, clothes became loose and relaxed with bright colors and patterns influenced by Native American and Middle Eastern cultures. 

In the 1960’s the British Invasion took over with bands such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and the Kinks gaining cult followings from teenagers all over the world. It was during this time when designer Mary Quant created the iconic miniskirt for the emerging youthful, fun-loving culture. Only a few years later came the 70’s when the iconic band we love and know today as Queen became popular. Recently, the movie Bohemian Rhapsody was made to celebrate the band and its extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury. If you haven’t seen this film yet I suggest you do not only for their music, but for the amazing clothing. Freddie Mercury was a man of his own mind;  he went against the norm and this movie displayed his flamboyant, glamorous style in the highest respect. He once said, “I’m not going to be a star, I’m going to be a legend” and he has managed to do just that by withstanding the bounds of time.

Skipping a decade or two into the future, we come to the 90’s when grunge began playing on the radios for all the angsty teenagers. Tired of the commercialized suburban life, Kurt Cobain used his anger and raw talent with bandmates Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl to give us Nirvana. The music is gritty and filled with emotion over a heavy bassline which lead to an unpressed style in fashion. Denim, flannel shirts, and leather jackets were all the rage to the lacklustre unkempt look this genre stood for. Cobain helped set the millennial idea of androgyny such as our beloved David Bowie did with his eccentric style. Vogue describes Cobain as having had a “Seattle thrift-store look that ran the gamut of masculine lumberjack workwear and 40s-by-way-of-70s feminine dresses.” 

The 90’s birthed hip-hop, a genre that mixes influences of R&B, reggae, soul, funk, and rock. The eclectic mix started out in the Bronx from famous musicians like Grandmaster Flash and DJ Kool Herc. Lyrics would often reflect images of flashy lifestyles and high-end gear rappers would wear. Hip-hop artists began collaborating with fashion designers which created a style known as “grime.” Dapper Dan was a famous fashion designer known for creating garments that took ideas from major fashion labels in an affordable way for people with disposable incomes. Today his influence can be seen with premium streetwear brands like Supreme, collaborating with Louis Vuitton and Gucci. 

With all that being said, it goes to say that music and fashion interact simultaneously. Trends in the music industry are most likely to have an effect on the fashion industry. The fashion of each genre can be seen over time dating as far back as the roaring twenties. The interconnectedness between music and fashion are continually birthing new ideas and we couldn’t be more excited to see what the future brings.

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