How Fashion Tailors The Music Industry

Drew Schwendiman, Student Journalist

GRAMMY Campers in all tracks visited the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles yesterday for a look into the history of the GRAMMY awards. The four floors of history in all music genres were all connected by one thing: fashion. Suits, dresses, shirts, gloves, and even necklaces were displayed in each showcase. Yet, the fashion of past and current stars differed based on their music. For instance, Latin stars donned sequins and flashy dresses while country stars typically went for the rugged look. Here's an inside look into the three main floors and the clothes that told stories.

On the fourth floor were the main genres of music. Classical, pop, and folk were a few of the mini-exhibits a person could tour. Tailcoats and formalwear were typical of classical music. The pop section was the most varied. Writing on the walls mentioned how today pop music is more diverse than it ever has been. The Beatles helped transform the popular music of their time into simply "rock" as opposed to "rock and roll" but today, pop music encompasses Latin, country, and even modern jazz. Ray Charles' suits of the 1990s were displayed. They were flashy and flamboyant, much like the costumes of today's performers. Levi Strauss was shown as the main designer for folk and roots artists, specifically Stevie Ray Vaughan. Denim was the fabric that connected these artists with country artists. The largest exhibit on the floor, the country exhibit, could be summarized in one word: rugged.  Male artists typically wore white undershirts, denim shirts, or flannel shirts with jeans in the photos. Their female counterparts dressed similarly but their clothes were shorter and their boots weren't as simple.  Moving along we came to the hip-hop exhibit. Outfits of rappers like Andre 3000 and Eazy-E from different GRAMMY Awards were loose and baggy, "easy" like the attitudes of these big stars. The platinum and diamond necklaces contrasted with the Zulu necklaces of the 1980s. What really defined this exhibit though were the sneakers. "The sneaker is the universally recognized footwear of hip-hop culture," started the passage on sneakers. The most popular "kicks" (that are still around today) were designed by Nike and Adidas. Some things just don't change.

Down a flight of stairs were exhibits that focused on individual artists. Well, except for the Latin exhibit.  Celia Cruz flaunted her showy costumes for years. Sequins, decorations, and basically any material that reflected light adorned the form-fitting dresses of such Latin stars. Dionne Warwick had her own showcase a few feet away.  This five-time GRAMMY winner wore custom outfits to many events. In 1990 she wore a dazzling custom stage outfit with colors and sequins everywhere.  Twenty-one years later though, she toned it down with a grey dress that ruffled from her bosom to the ground.  Michael Jackson, though, never toned it down.  The "king of pop" wore many of Bill Whitten's designs.  He notably designed Jackson's white glove, but he also designed many of the gold, sparkly, or sequined leather jackets that Jackson performed in. Any fan of Jackson needs to visit this museum just for the showcase, because besides the clothes he wore, the showcase contains handwritten songs and rarely seen photos. In the center of the third floor were costumes from the 53rd Grammy Awards.  Cee Lo Green's feather suit (designed by Maria Harper), Rihanna's bedazzled bra and jeweled thong, and B.o.B's simple Brooks Brother suit were behind clear windows.  Even Taylor Swift's form-fitting blue gown (designed by Kaufman Franco) and Katy Perry's memorable fruit costume were available for public viewing.  Most, if not all outfits, were on loan from foundations and artists. 

The last exhibit was the metal music exhibit on the second floor.  Besides the museum store, the exhibit took up the entire floor. One word can describe everything: dark.  Many outfits were black and violent but there were some standouts. One artist wore a white t-shirt and white pants to a performance, but his clothes were stained with red paint that looked like blood. What separated this section, though, from all the other exhibits was the use of props. Masks and gear were everywhere. Prop masks that looked like Jason, Freddy, and Pinhead were a few of the masks exhibited.  A costume from one group, Gwar, could have been in a film. Coming from a 2010 performance, it had chest gear, leg gear, and a mask. The group could have fit in at ComicCon or a World of Warcraft convention with the ensemble.  Kevin Dubrow's cheetah print suit from 2005 was also on display.  Leather jackets of both Rob Halford and Spinal Tap differed in length but both were decorated with rhinestones and large metal stubs.  The simplest outfit award goes to Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen's neoclassic suit from circa 2005.  The shirt had ruffles typical of the classical period, his tailcoat was typical of the classical period, but he wore leather pants and black boots that blended heavy metal style with the classics.

The fashion in the GRAMMY Museum can appeal to anyone.  Shoes, jewelry, clothes, and costumes from all genres can tell stories that the words can't tell.  Plus, it's always nice to see Michael Jackson's infamous outfits in person.  If only there was Lady Gaga's meat dress...

In the Spotlight

Katherine Ho

GRAMMY Camp LA 2015


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