Friday, 17 September 2010

Lady Contrick: To her fans Lady Gaga is a cutting edge style icon. But is she really just a shameless plagiarist?

By Liz Jones

A rash move: How the singer ripped off the meat dress, originally designed by Jana Sterbak

Not many dresses have the power to shock, but this one did. What on earth was Lady Gaga thinking? Had she finally gone too far? Many of her hardcore fans averted their eyes in horror.

No, not the ridiculous meat ensemble she wore to the Video Music Awards last week, but the full-length taffeta Giorgio Armani gown she also wore that night.

How could the pop star who has made her name contorting her frame into a succession of increasingly outrageous and avant garde costumes have stooped so low as to wear something so blatantly commercial and, well, wearable? What next, an ad for Pepsi?

Meaty: The original dress that Lady Gaga's shocking outfit was based on

To be honest, there was nowhere left for the 24-year-old pop star to go. To be dressed by the king of beige in one of his red carpet gowns was a daring move for a woman more used to shooting fireworks from her nipples, strapping herself into a jewelled gag for a performance at Carnegie Hall and meeting the Queen in a red Latex outfit at the Royal Variety Performance (as she curtsied, everything squeaked).

The problem for Lady Gaga is that nothing is shocking any more. Of course, she still tries, valiantly, to wear the unwearable.

Material girls: Madonna wore a corset and fishnets first

Take that meat dress. According to its Argentinian-born (where else?) designer Franc Fernandez, it was a matambre dress.

The name means beef wrapped around a stuffing, which is one way of describing the woman who has sold 15 million albums, 51 million singles - and counting.

Lady Gaga is the biggest pop star on the planet. Not many of us can hum one of her insipid, nursery rhyme tunes, of course. But she is instantly recognisable.

According to the fashion and music press, she is a style icon. She has just graced the cover of Vanity Fair, after all.

Flash forward: Hijacking David Bowie's look from the 1970s

She is adventurous. She is a shameless exhibitionist. But I am here to tell you she is not remotely new or innovative. The only really new thing about Lady Gaga is her talent for self-promotion.

Let's start with that beef ensemble, topped off with a jaunty steak beret. We saw an almost identical dress in 1987, when it was exhibited as a sculpture by Canadian artist Jana Sterbak and left to decompose.

Lady Gaga tried to clarify the meaning behind the dress by stating: 'I am not a piece of meat.' But isn't it telling that she commissioned the same designer to make her a meat bikini for a provocative pose on the cover of a men's magazine? This is not just derivative, but jawdroppingly cynical.

Can't get you out of my head: Kylie had this look long before Lady Gaga

Much of Lady Gaga's wardrobe turns out to be a little past its sell-by date. The jackets made from sweet wrappers, with exaggerated shoulders? First worn in the mid-Seventies by everyone from David Bowie to Marc Bolan. Even Gary Glitter got there first.

The cone bra, the leotard worn as outer wear, the crucifix? Madonna, of course, but at least she managed to look sexy, rather than 'clinical, and strangely antiseptic', in the words of feminist writer Camille Paglia, who acidly adds: 'Lady Gaga is like a laminated piece of ersatz rococo furniture.'

How about Lady Gaga's nun's habit? Madonna, again.

An army-style peaked cap? That's been worn by everyone from the Village People to that most mainstream and pedestrian of performers, Victoria Beckham.

Cold shoulder: Gary Glitter was rocking this look in the 1970s

The feather plumes of a Las Vegas showgirl? Kylie wore these on stage, having appropriated her costume from the chorus of the turn-of-thecentury Folies Bergeres.

How about dressing in drag? Marlene Dietrich in a tux beat Lady Gaga to it decades ago, as well as to the bisexual undertones; Lady Gaga famously proclaimed her attraction to women early on in her career.

How about the black veil she wore over her face to her sister's graduation ceremony? Michael Jackson, anyone?

Or the fact she gave away a lock of hair with the re-release of her double Grammy-winning album, The Fame? The avant garde artist Andy Warhol beat her to it by 40 years.

My goodness, even Rolling Stone magazine has described Lady Gaga, whom it loves to splash across its cover, as 'a cross between Gene Simmons of Kiss and My Little Pony'. Not quite the effect she was after, surely.

The cap fits: But Victoria Beckham got there first

So who is the strange exhibitionist, this magpie who steals other performers' creativity and claims it as her own? Lady Gaga was born plain (literally; she hated her looks as a child) Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in 1986.

She grew up in the comfortable Upper West Side of Manhattan hating her nose, her thighs, everything. She has used every trick in the book to distract from her physical features ever since.

She started out performing in gay clubs and took her name from one of her favourite songs, Radio Ga Ga, by her idols, Queen.

She harbours a dark, dirty secret: she once wrote music for boy band New Kids On The Block. This is like discovering Alice Cooper swapped beads with his nan.

Like the late fashion editor Isabella Blow - another woman who believed she was unattractive, but who wanted more than anything to work in the unforgiving world of fashion and so adopted crazy hats and veils to distract from her protruding teeth - Lady Gaga suffer s from an inferiority complex.

The eyes have it: Mimicking Alice Cooper's make-up

She calls her fans Little Monsters because as a child she felt like one.

You know that, deep down, Lady Gaga doesn't want to wear a lobster hat on her head; she wants to look beautiful. And that is sad, and damning of the way women are always judged, no matter how rich or how talented. Like Blow, Lady Gaga found a soulmate in the late designer Alexander McQueen. She has embraced many of his ideas: corsetry, elaborate masks, bustles and bondage wear.

She even shamelessly hijacked the ideas behind his most brilliant catwalk show - when he sent a disabled model down the runway in intricately carved prosthetic legs - for one of her jaunty videos.

Her take was a jewelled crutch (maybe, given her Faustian pact with Armani, that most corporate of designers, she had just done a deal with Swarovski).

Fishy business: Isabella Blow (right) wore a lobster hat in 1998

But the problem with adopting the clothes of a designer with a huge personality is that you become consumed. McQueen didn't intend for the grotesque shoes in his spring/summer 2010 collection to be worn. But dear, game, gullible Lady Gaga wore hers to travel by plane.

While she might believe she is a groundbreaker when it comes to fashion, it seems she is even more susceptible to labels than the rest of us.

She carries a white Hermes Birkin - that mos t convent ional and expensive of handbags - though hers is, inevitably, covered with scribble.

And while Lady Gaga insists she is trying to challenge stereotypes, tell me why, having been born a brunette, does she persist with long, platinum locks and red lips, a look women have been labouring under since Jean Harlow discovered bleach?

Lady Gaga would love to have us believe she is subversive, but a coat made from hundreds of Kermit the Frog toys means what, exactly?

Given she has worn feathers, leather, reptile skins, fur and, ultimately, flesh, as a polemic against fur it is badly misjudged.

The elaborate, expensive costumes have ruffled a few feathers among performers who are far more innovative than she will ever be.

source: dailymail

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