Blue Gucci dress of Harry Styles

The blue Gucci dress displayed in the Victoria and Albert museum.

In the December 2020 issue of American Vogue, English singer Harry Styles wore a custom-made blue Gucci dress as their first ever solo male cover star.[1] Designed by head of Gucci Alessandro Michele, the dress received mixed reception from both conservative and progressive critics. Conservatives condemned the perceived corruption of traditional masculinity. Progressive and queer critics gave mixed reactions, and the dress generated a significant amount of conversation about sexuality, gender roles, race, and privilege.

Background

Harry Styles publicly expressed an interest in fashion as early as 2012, when he was still a member of the boy band One Direction.[2] That year he attended his first Burberry show in the front row at London Fashion Week.[2][3] He wore patterned shirts frequently, and was praised for his enjoyment of leopard[4] and heart prints from Burberry.[5] In 2013, he won the British Style Award at the British Fashion Awards.[6] In 2014, Styles started to wear Yves Saint-Laurent regularly.[7] During this period of time, Styles met his current stylist Harry Lambert.[8] and Gucci's Alessandro Michele.[9]

After his collaboration with Harry Lambert began, Styles' wardrobe was expanded to feature Gucci, as well as small designers such as Daniel W. Fletcher.[10] The floral Gucci suits he wore on the red carpet in 2015 received mixed reactions,[11] with some critics (and the internet generally) comparing him unfavorably to an IKEA couch.[12][13] In 2016, he did his first solo editorial shoot with Another Man magazine.[14] Prior to his appearance on the cover of Vogue, Styles had modeled for Rolling Stone (twice),[15][16] The Face,[17] L'Officiel Hommes,[18] Beauty Papers,[19] The Guardian,[20] and many other publications. He had also been the face of three Gucci tailoring campaigns[21] and of Gucci's gender neutral fragrance, Memoire d'un Odeur.[22]

In May 2019, Styles co-chaired the Met Gala alongside Lady Gaga, Serena Williams, Alessandro Michele, and Anna Wintour.[23] The cover of Styles' second album, Fine Line, featured Tim Walker fisheye photography of Styles wearing a hot pink button down with pink suspenders and high waisted white pants.[24] When asked by The Guardian in December 2019 if he was dressing this way because he was a "straight dude, sprinkling LGBTQ crumbs that lead nowhere," Styles replied that he was not trying to "sprinkle in nuggets of sexual ambiguity to be more interesting," and that he simply wore things because he thought they looked cool.[20] Styles said he felt that it was a very exciting time to be an artist because a lot of lines were blurring, including the gender binaries of fashion.[20] Over the course of the following year, Styles would continue to wear androgynous, and sometimes daring items of clothing. Notable items included fishnets in the art magazine Beauty Papers,[19] a black dress with white ruffled sleeves in The Guardian,[20] a tutu on Saturday Night Live,[25] and Mary Janes at The Brit Awards.[26]

Design and photography

"The Gallery of the HSM Calcutta" by painter James Tissot.

The dress is a ruffled periwinkle gown covered in black Valenciennes lace and ribbons. It was constructed by Gucci's Alessandro Michele.[1] Critics have noted it bears similarity to other gowns in the Gucci Fall 2020 collection.[27] It is most similar in appearance to look 15, which is pink.[28] Hamish Bowles, writing for Vogue, described it as a dress, "that Tissot might have liked to paint—acres of ice-blue ruffles, black Valenciennes lace, and suivez-moi, jeune homme [come here, young man] ribbons." The dress was paired with a black double-breasted tuxedo jacket.[1]

The creative vision of the shoot was rooted in androgyny, with Lionel Wendt's homoerotic portraits of Sri Lankan men and Irving Penn's 1950s photographs of midcentury supermodels in Dior and Balenciaga both serving as inspiration.[1] It was photographed by Tyler Mitchell and co-styled by Vogue fashion editor Camilla Nickerson and Harry Lambert.[1] Other items of clothing featured in the shoot included a custom Harris Reed dress-and-trousers combination, custom painted Bode pants, a Comme des Garçons kilt, a Gucci pussy-bow blouse, a Wales Bonner skirt, and a Maison Margiela trench coat.[1]

Reception

Eliza Huber from Refinery29 praised the shoot, highlighting the fact that the dress was a natural progression of his tendency to buck gender norms in fashion.[27] She noted that while he was not the first male celebrity to wear a dress, "he is one of the first to do so on such a global scale."[27] Orla Pentelow from Bustle concurred, saying, "It is an utter joy. From kilts to Gucci gowns, Styles epitomises a new generation of ahem, style, devoid of any traces of toxic masculinity, and, of course, nails each and every one of the looks."[29] Reacting to the frenzy caused by the dress, The Daily Telegraph noted that artists such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop "have been strutting their stuff in dresses for decades."[30]

On November 14, conservative commentator Candace Owens responded to the photoshoot by tweeting that "There is no society that can survive without strong men. The East knows this. In the west, the steady feminization of our men at the same time that Marxism is being taught to our children is not a coincidence. It is an outright attack. Bring back manly men."[31]

Ben Shapiro
Candace Owens
Candace Owens and Ben Shapiro criticized Styles for wearing a dress.

Podcaster and editor of the Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro, said it was "a referendum on masculinity for men to wear floofy dresses."[31] Senator Ted Cruz of Texas compared him to a painting Jeffrey Epstein had on his wall of former president of the United States Bill Clinton wearing a dress.[31] The son of former president Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., also compared him to this painting.[32] Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain called the dress "a bit weird" and asked "why do men need to wear dresses?"[33] Many progressive public figures leapt to defend Styles, including filmmaker and actress Olivia Wilde,[34] representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York,[35] actress Jameela Jamil,[36] and actor Elijah Wood.[34] Raven Smith, writing for Vogue, said that, "a man in a dress seems quite far down the pecking order in terms of stuff to get riled up about."[37] EJ Dickson writing for Rolling Stone said that the point of the shoot was not to be provocative, but simply "to show a gorgeous person in a gorgeous dress, looking gorgeous."[38] Dickson went on to say, "What really incensed conservative commenters like Owens and Shapiro was precisely how mundane the image was supposed to be."[38] Criticism from the right wing has persisted until this day, with Styles featuring as a target of ridicule on Fox News several times since the controversy.[39][40]

Black gay actor Billy Porter and non-binary Desi performance artist Alok Vaid-Menon expressed mixed and negative feelings about the cover. Vaid-Menon said that they were, "happy to see Harry be celebrated for openly flouting gendered fashion norms," and that they felt it meant that it was "a sign of progress of society’s evolution away from binary gender."[41] However they also felt that "white men should [not] be upheld as the face of gender neutral fashion" because "trans femmes of color started this and continue to face the backlash from it."[41] One year later, while promoting his new book, Unprotected: A Memoir, Porter offered a more scathing critique of Styles' dress. According to Porter, "He doesn't care, he's just doing it because it's the thing to do. This is politics for me. This is my life. I had to fight my entire life to get to the place where I could wear a dress to the Oscars ... All he has to do is be white and straight."[42] He later apologized for centering Harry in the conversation.[43]

Styles responded to the criticism one month later by posting a photograph of himself in a frilly outfit while suggestively eating a banana, partnered with the caption "Bring back manly men", referencing Owens's tweet.[44]

Legacy

In 2020 Styles was voted GQ's "Most Stylish Man of the Year".[45] Following the controversy, his stylist, Harry Lambert, received a lot of press attention for being the man who "put Harry Styles in a dress."[46] In June 2021 Sunday Times called him "the A-list's secret style weapon".[47]

Nashville-based singer Charlotte Sands wrote a song called "Dress", inspired by Styles' photoshoot. The song went viral on TikTok and has been added to over 37,000 Spotify playlists.[48]

In March 2022, Styles' dress was featured at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of their 'Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear' exhibition.[49] It was displayed next to a wedding dress worn by drag queen Bimini Bon-Boulash on the second series of RuPaul's Drag Race UK and the black Christian Siriano gown of Billy Porter .[50]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Bowles, Hamish (2020-11-13). "Playtime With Harry Styles: "You Can Never Be Overdressed"". Vogue. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  2. ^ a b "Harry Styles appearance at Burberry show during London Fashion Week led to over 7,000 mentions". The Drum. September 25, 2012. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  3. ^ Pantony, Ali (2021-05-11). "Here's proof that Harry Styles is one of the best-dressed men on the planet". Glamour UK. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  4. ^ Fox, Imogen. "London fashion week front row watch: Harry Styles at Burberry". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  5. ^ "PHOTOS: This Might Be Harry Styles' Only Shirt". HuffPost. 2013-08-21. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  6. ^ "British Fashion Awards 2013: Harry Styles Wins The British Style Award". Grazia. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  7. ^ Amey, Kathryn (2015-02-03). "All of Harry Styles's Coolest (and Craziest!) Fashion Moments Over the Last 12 Months". Teen Vogue. Retrieved 2015-02-03.
  8. ^ Ferrier, Morwenna (2022-05-26). "When Harry met Harry! The man who put Harry Styles in a dress". the Guardian. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  9. ^ Cardini, Tiziana (2022-06-20). ""This Collection Is a True Act of Love"—Alessandro Michele on His Gucci Ha Ha Ha Collab With Harry Styles". Vogue. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  10. ^ Maoui, Zak (2020-11-27). "Daniel W Fletcher: 'Harry Styles had a huge impact on my career". British GQ. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  11. ^ McCall, Tyler (2015-12-14). "In Defense of Harry Styles's Wild Suits". Teen Vogue. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  12. ^ Romain, Alana (November 22, 2015). "Harry Styles' Floral Suit At The AMAs Gave People A Lot Of Feelings". Romper. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  13. ^ Thompson, Eliza (2015-11-23). "Harry Styles's AMAs Suit Looks Like Everybody's Bedspread". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  14. ^ "Harry Styles Another Man Cover Stories | AnotherMan". www.anothermanmag.com. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  15. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2019-08-26). "The Eternal Sunshine of Harry Styles". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  16. ^ Crowe, Cameron (2017-04-18). "Harry Styles: Singer Opens Up About Famous Flings, Honest New LP". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  17. ^ Taylor, Trey (September 5, 2019). "Harry Styles: the boy is back". The Face. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  18. ^ Webb, Ali (December 8, 2019). "Welcome to the House of Harry Styles – Singer Fashion Gucci 'Fine Line'". L'Officiel USA. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  19. ^ a b Abad, Mario (2020-03-17). "Harry Styles in Fishnets Will Save Us All". PAPER. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  20. ^ a b c d Lamont, Tom (2019-12-14). "Harry Styles: 'I'm not just sprinkling in sexual ambiguity to be interesting'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  21. ^ Pike, Naomi (2019-05-21). "A Pig, A Swan, A Statue, A Headscarf – Harry Styles's New Gucci Campaign Is Even More Extra Than The Last". British Vogue. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  22. ^ Kinney, Bunny (2019-08-01). "Exclusive: Harry Styles tells all on Gucci's new fragrance, Memoire". Dazed. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  23. ^ Pike, Naomi (2019-04-18). "Harry Styles Will Co-Host The Met Gala, But What Does That Actually Mean?". British Vogue. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  24. ^ Greenwood, Douglas (2019-11-05). "everything you need to know about harry styles' new album cover". i-D. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  25. ^ Hunt, Elle (2019-11-18). "Tutu good: how Harry Styles suddenly became Britain's greatest export". the Guardian. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  26. ^ Okwudu, Janelle (2020-02-18). "Harry Styles Debuts the Mary Jane for Men". Vogue. Retrieved 2022-07-09.
  27. ^ a b c Huber, Eliza. "Harry Styles' Dress On The Cover Of Vogue Is A Sign Of The Times". www.refinery29.com. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  28. ^ "Gucci Fall 2020 Ready-to-Wear Fashion Show". Vogue. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  29. ^ Pentelow, Orla. "Harry Styles Revealed What Makes Him Feel Like A Superhero In A New Interview". Bustle. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  30. ^ Harvey, Chris (2020-12-03). "Shocked by Harry Styles's dress? Take a lesson in pop history". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  31. ^ a b c Tannenbaum, Emily (2020-11-16). "Harry Styles Expertly Fired Back at Candace Owens's Tweet—But She Can't Let It Go". Glamour. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  32. ^ Northcutt, Atlanta (2020-11-17). "Donald Trump Jr. Weighs in on Candace Owens' Controversial Harry Styles 'Masculinity' Comments". Outsider. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  33. ^ Young, Sarah (2020-11-18). "Piers Morgan says Harry Styles wearing a dress is 'a bit weird'". The Independent. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  34. ^ a b West, Rachel (2020-11-16). "Olivia Wilde, Zach Braff, Elijah Wood And More Defend Harry Styles' Gender-Blurring Looks In Vogue". ET Canada. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  35. ^ Schild, Darcy. "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shut down critics of Harry Styles' Vogue cover and said the musician 'looks bomb' in his photos". Insider. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  36. ^ Kocharekar, Sangeeta (November 18, 2020). "Harry Styles Wore A Dress On The Cover Of Vogue. So What?". MTV. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  37. ^ Smith, Raven (2020-11-18). "On Traditional Masculinity and the Bizarre Hullabaloo About a Man in a Dress". Vogue. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  38. ^ a b Dickson, E. J. (2020-12-02). "Why Conservatives Are So Threatened by Harry Styles in a Dress". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  39. ^ Espinoza, Joshua (December 30, 2020). "Fox News Host Slammed After Criticizing Harry Styles' Gender-Bending Wardrobe". Complex. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  40. ^ Villarreal, Daniel. "Anti-gay pundit trolled hard on Twitter for criticizing Harry Style's rainbow Coachella outfit". Queerty. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  41. ^ a b Truman, Isabelle. "Should Harry Styles Be Celebrated For Wearing A Dress?". Grazia. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  42. ^ Deng, Jireh (2021-10-20). "Harry Styles isn't the leader of a fashion revolution, but neither is Billy Porter". NPR. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  43. ^ Longo, Joseph (2021-11-09). "Billy Porter Apologizes to Harry Styles Over "Vogue" Cover Criticism". Them. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  44. ^ "Harry Styles sends a message to his Vogue fashion haters: 'Bring back manly men'". Los Angeles Times. 2020-12-02. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  45. ^ "See Who GQ Readers Voted the Most Stylish Man of the Year". GQ. 2020-12-14. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  46. ^ "When Harry met Harry! The man who put Harry Styles in a dress". the Guardian. 2022-05-26. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  47. ^ Wise, Louis. "Meet Harry Lambert, the A‑list's secret style weapon". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  48. ^ Norris, Rebecca (February 25, 2021). "Charlotte Sands Thinks You Look Great in That Dress". Sllure. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  49. ^ Mower, Sarah (2022-03-19). ""Fashioning Masculinities," the V&A's New Show, Proves That Gender Has Always Been a Construct". Vogue. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  50. ^ Elan, Priya (March 16, 2022). "'Death of the suit': V&A exhibition explores evolution of menswear". The Guardian. ISSN 1756-3224. Archived from the original on April 30, 2022. Retrieved April 30, 2022.
  • v
  • t
  • e
Studio albums
Singles
Promotional singlesOther songs
  • "Medicine"
  • "Matilda"
Concert tours
Fashion
  • Blue Gucci dress of Harry Styles
Related people
Related articles