While I really can’t stand much of Lady Gaga’s music, the bitch does know how to style herself so that everybody’s talking about her all the time. Like, take the weird outfit she wore to the airport in Spain this past weekend. It’s so bulbous and ungainly and unflattering, but in a totally pointed way. But you know? Her style? It’s kind of a rip-off/homage to another incredible artist: Leigh Bowery. I’m not the first to see the connection between the two — it’s been written about and noted by everyone from Colette to Vogue — but the genius and dark subversion of Bowery’s work has to be seen to be believed.
Leigh was a singular figure — born in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, he immigrated to London in 1980 where he immersed himself in the burgeoning dance music scene. After a failed stint as a fashion designer, Bowery set his focus on climbing the club circuit, making elaborate costumes for himself and friends. The clothing got him noticed, but it was his outsized personality that really impressed — he was soon offered a job as a club promoter where he revolutionized London’s music scene.
His wild, body-contorting designs were a hit, but they served a rather utilitarian purpose for Bowery; a large, overweight man, they helped him hide his body by subverting the form altogether. Bowery did what felt comfortable, and that pushed the boundaries of everyone else around him. In his short life — he was only 32 when he died — he managed to start a band called Minty, that was dubbed the “sickest band in the world” and became a prominent subject for the painter Lucien Freud.
Bowery died in 1994 from complications from AIDS. His life is memorialized in the Boy George musical Taboo (which takes its name from Lee’s first London club night) and in the documentary film “The Legend Of Leigh Bowery.” His short life managed to create a style quake whose ripples are still felt today, from Lady Gaga to Nicki Minaj and beyond.
Check out our gallery of Bowery get-ups above/below.