Cher and Cher alike: A fearless fashion sense

She may have just turned 68, but Cher has never seemed more stylish as ghosts of her past sartorial hits haunt the spring/summer catwalks. Alexander Fury salutes her fearless fashion sense

Fashion frequently turns to the oddest of figures to influence its flights of fancy. Collections have been inspired by a time-travelling Edie Sedgwick winding up in 17th-century Holland; by the chance meeting of Elvira and Scarlett O'Hara, or a 1920s couture show attended by Princess Pocahontas. This spring's key heroine may be a little less impossible, but she's no less incongruous. She's Cherilyn Sarkisian – the artist better known as Cher.

Don't frown, or smirk. Cher's style was everywhere on the spring/summer catwalks of fashion's most important designers. The most explicit incarnation surfaced at Marc Jacobs' spring show for Louis Vuitton, where models sported towering feathered headpieces by milliner Stephen Jones, inspired by Cher's 1986 Bob Mackie Oscars ensemble. The rest of the outfits paid similar homage, predominantly black, frequently transparent and bedecked with spangles. Louis Vuitton meets Las Vegas.

Jacobs' name-checked Cher as one of the Louis Vuitton collection's muses, but he also cited Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand and the French revue performer Zizi Jeanmaire in his show-notes. The ultimate dedication was: "To the showgirl in all of us."

Indeed, If Cher is the figurehead of this style, a somewhat simpler to digest tag is just that – showgirl. It was evident in a Ziegfeld Follies-esque flurry of feathers, fringe and frills, in the crystal tassels trembling across the surface of sequin flapper frocks at Miu Miu; in the brassieres embroidered on to the outside of sweaters and coats at Prada. Maison Martin Margiela spliced up paillette-strewn bustiers and trussed them across cashmere tailoring, while Alber Elbaz played out his entire Lanvin collection in multi-coloured metallic lamé that resembled Quality Street wrappers. Tom Ford bedazzled crotch-length boots and buttock-skimming mini-dresses with shattered mirror fragments, cabochon gems or just Chantilly lace beaded to within a millimetre of breaking point. Turn back time, and Cher could easily be sporting them in a rock video.

Cher-esque S/S14 looks: Prada It's easy to scoff at the notion of Cher as a style icon – tacky, even tasteless, are the words that are often thrown around about her attire, particularly her 1980s Bob Mackie ensembles, which mostly consisted of cling-film taut chiffon, strategically flecked with microscopic beads to keep them legal, rather than decent. They were mocked, dubbed "worst in show" at various red carpet events, while praise was heaped on the then-tasteful taffeta poufs and the slinky but nondescript evening columns. But there's something about those jumped-up, vajazzled body-stockings that still register. They are daring, audacious. And Cher looks like she's actually enjoying wearing them.

Cher-esque S/S14 looks: Julien Macdonald

Despite naysayers, Cher has impeccable fashion credentials. Spotted by the late Diana Vreeland, the legendary former editor of US Vogue dubbed "the oracle of opulence", Cher also modelled for the prolific photographer Richard Avedon. Between 1972 and 1975, Cher appeared on the cover of Vogue five times. In 1999 – 15 years ago – she was officially honoured by the CFDA for her influence upon the fashion world just as the glitz blitz so associated with her sartorial extremes began to creep back into vogue.

Coincidentally, that whole turn-of-the-century "ghetto fabulous" thing has also begun to be revived. Look at the logo-laden collection Alexander Wang sent out in New York; at the gobstopper-sized jewels clattering across Prada's shift dresses and coats; at the obnoxious amount of fur swathed over any and every surface, regardless of the season. It's been building for a few years – it was inevitable that Cher, patron saint of the paillette, would materialise to take on the mantle of the queen of camp.

Of course, for some designers, life truly is a cabaret – and showgirl excess never goes out of style. Foremost in the Cher style-stakes is Julien Macdonald, a designer who has whipped up rhinestone-encrusted dresses for everyone from Shirley Bassey to Cheryl Cole to Cher herself. He normally sends a couple of dozen dresses out a season and calls it a collection. That's not criticism, just commentary: Macdonald has a niche. A sequin-studded, fishnet-smothered niche, crammed with loyal customers that he shamelessly indulges every season.

"The ultimate showgirl is Dita Von Teese," says Macdonald, when asked about contemporary showgirl style. "She is avant-garde; a pin-up star-turned-modern showgirl. I would also say Kylie Minogue is sexy and showgirl-esque – the way she takes reference from the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergère." The designer, nicknamed "Jazzy Jules", could be talking about himself, though – especially as both Von Teese and Minogue sport frocks he has, more often than not, had a hand in creating. Minimalism has no place on a Macdonald catwalk – or, indeed, on many others for this spring.

Perhaps that's the reason for this season's explosion of "Cher style". Fashion loves nothing more than a volte-face and this season's surfeit of sequins is the polar opposite of our hitherto obsessive interest in the seam details on plain camel coats. The fashion world's embracing of Cher's showgirl shenanigans is a great, gaudy celebration of ostentation and display.

That's not to say that the expensive, Céline-influenced minimalism that has proliferated over the past few years was intended to be invisible, of course. "We all dress to show off whether we are minimalist or maximalist," reasoned Marc Jacobs when discussing his Cher-ish Louis Vuitton collection. "We are creatures that want to show off, like peacocks that spread their feathers to attract attention."

Some people's feathers are just bigger and brighter than others. And more frequently sewn into a towering Bob Mackie headpiece. 

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

    £18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

    Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

    £40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

    £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

    £20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future