Style police; Fancy dressing at the court of the sun king
Guests at Elton John's 50th birthday party surpassed themselves this week for banality and vulgarity. It didn't used to be like this in Dame Barbara's day, reports James Sherwood
Sunday 13 April 1997
His Louis XlV ensemble, from the silver court shoes to the stately galleon on top of a three-foot high jewel-encrusted wig, was reputed to have cost Elton pounds 50,000. Frankly, if he'd turned up as a scale model of Imelda Marcos's entire wardrobe, we wouldn't have been the least surprised. Elton is, after all, the Nineties answer to Liberace. After modelling Versace couture this year, in a campaign that made him look like Pat Butcher's long lost sister, Elton can't possibly shock us now. It is the other guests who raised eyebrows.
"It's a disgrace," says Dame Barbara Cartland. "If you'd read my book We Danced All Night, you'd know that the bright young things threw marvellous costume parties in the Twenties and Thirties. Costumes were witty and intelligent, not banal and tasteless." Lord and Lady Lloyd Webber amply demonstrated Dame Barbara's point, with Andrew modelling a banal Middlesborough football strip and Madeleine a tasteless bunny-girl basque. The 600-strong guest list included Shirley Bassey as Cleopatra, Dawn French and Lenny Henry as Michael Jackson and Bubbles, Jean-Paul Gaultier as a knickerless French maid and Janet Street-Porter as Wonder Woman (make of that what you will).
Perish the thought that the Style Police are killjoys. But it takes more than Lulu dressed in a floaty green chiffon frock and a blonde wig to give a costume party glamour. When Truman Capote threw his Black & White Ball in the Sixties, newspaper tycoon Katherine Graham was the guest of honour, while Audrey Hepburn, Cecil Beaton, Princess Margaret, Princess Grace and Tallulah Bankhead attended. The Surrealist Ball, Proust Ball and Baron Alexis du Rede balls were attended by the crowned heads of Europe, Hollywood royalty and couturiers Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel and Christian Dior. I don't think Tara "Don't call me ubiquitous" Palmer-Tomkinson, Gary Barlow of Take That and Gaultier quite compare. The only saving grace was the absence of the Spice Girls.
"Most of the costumes were very DIY," sniffed a member of the Welsh Come Dancing troupe who entertained Elton's guests - and certainly didn't sew on all her own sequins. In fact, the only royalty to attend was Elton's mum dressed as the Queen. The only ingenious costume was worn by Elton's manager John Reid, who came as one of the male swans from Adventures in Motion Pictures's celebrated production of Swan Lake. It combined wit, sex and contemporary reference. That couldn't be said for 99 per cent of the other guests. Maybe the most telling comment was from pop idol of yesteryear Paul Young, who said the party was "The most brilliant thing I have ever seen." Now that's damning with faint praise if ever I heard it.
Life & Style blogs
The high-powered dream team trying to create a stiletto shoe as comfy as a trainer
How Old Do I Look: Microsoft’s super advanced age-guessing app is terrible at guessing how old celebrities are, too
Apple MacBook review: preposterously thin and extravagantly attractive, this is the best-designed laptop Apple has ever made
UK skin cancer statistics 'shocking' as sun-worshippers ignore the dangers of exposure
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...
£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...