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. 

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little