David Bowie: 25 of his most iconic fashion moments

Posted by
Harriet Hall

As the world mourns the loss of one of the most pioneering artists of our time, David Bowie – who died aged 69 following a battle with cancer – we take a look back at some of his most iconic fashion moments.

Bowie was a maverick of reinvention, creating alter egos including the flame-haired Ziggy Stardust and the melancholy Thin White Duke.

Bowie pioneered gender-bending in fashion, wearing tight, androgynous bodysuits and make-up. 

His flamboyant dress sense was inspired by artists and designers alike, defying the status quo and presenting a figure whose public image was inseparable from the music he created.

We’ve selected just a few of his numerous brilliant fashion moments for which he will always be remembered.

Rest in peace, you fashionable genius.

  • Fresh-faced, 1960

    Before the creation of his various personas, Bowie had a teenage bouffant hairstyle and wore typically fashionable clothes for the 1960s. 

  • Mod life, 1963

    Wearing mod fashion with a model in a 1960s mini, Bowie poses on Kingly Street, off the fashion locus of Carnaby Street, for a shoot in Boyfriend magazine.

  • Suited and booted, 1966

    Still looking like David Jones, the singer performs in a classic mod style, with mop hair-cut, thin tie and sharp tailoring, at Wembley Studios on 1 March 1966 with his band, The Buzz. 

  • Hippy influence, 1967

    Bowie's early looks were inspired by the hippy movement. He often adopted embroidered fabrics and wore open jackets or shirts to reveal his bare, skinny chest. 

  • Mime man, 1968

    Bowie was known for experimenting with costume and make-up looks. In this image, the singer was dressed in a mime costume on a night out at Covent Garden's Middle Earth club. 

  • Mane man, 1969

    In his early days, some people compared his style to Swedish 1930s film star Greta Garbo because of his chiseled face and wild, curly hair.

  • Major Tom, 1969

    Bowie’s song, Space Oddity, released in July 1969 in the midst of the space race, referenced the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and saw the birth of his fictional character Major Tom. Major Tom became an autobiographical reference to Bowie himself, and later became addicted to drugs. This image shows Bowie as Major Tom in a promotional video for Space Oddity, in which he adopted the style of space-inspired fashions by designers including André Courrèges and Pierre Cardin.

  • Graphic prints, 1972

    Posing for a photo-shoot in his Beckenham living room on 25 April 1972, in an unzipped graphic-print jumpsuit, calf-length white lace-up boots and a baker boy hat.

  • Ziggy Stardust, 1972

    In the early 1970s (1972-1974), Bowie created his cult alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, with his stage show The Spiders from Mars. The androgynous Ziggy was known for tight glam outfits, a shock of orange hair and his preference for ‘alien life.’ The character was a cacophony of cultural references. This iconic bodysuit, and many others, was designed for the singer by by Freddie Burretti.

    “Offstage I’m a robot. Onstage I achieve emotion,” said Bowie. “It’s probably why I prefer dressing up as Ziggy to being David.”

  • Seeing red, 1973

    Bowie’s iconic Ziggy Stardust haircut was created by his Beckenham-based hairdresser, Suzi Fussey, who was inspired by a Japanese model in a shoot for the designer Kansai Yamamoto. The flame-orange colour was created by first bleaching his hair, then dyeing over it with a reddy-orange dye.  

    Ziggy’s space-age make-up was created by make-up artist, Pierre La Roche. 

  • Aladdin Sane, 1973

    Bowie’s album, Aladdin Sane, on which songs Watch That Man and The Jean Genie appeared, was a play on the words ‘a lad insane’, a reference to Bowie’s schizophrenic brother, Terry. The album sleeve was photographed by Brian Duffy, and the lightning bolt make-up, Bowie’s most iconic and recognisable image, was painted on his face to represent a divided mind.

  • Strike a pose, 1973

    Bowie poses with Twiggy in Paris, on the cover of his 1973 album Pin Ups

  • The right stripe, 1973

    The Japanese designer Kansai Yamamoto was behind most of Ziggy Stardust’s costumes. Yamamoto’s bold, sculptural and gender-bending designs helped to define the character of Ziggy Stardust. This monochrome striped bodysuit, which went on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s David Bowie is retrospective in 2013, was designed for the Aladdin Sane tour.

    “David Bowie and I combined the worlds of seeing and sound,” Yamamoto told Dazed. “Because musicians who want to be number one, want to wear the number one.”

  • Pirate style, 1974

    Bowie took inspiration from everywhere – even pirates. This outfit, worn at Hilversum TV Studios for a performance of Rebel Rebel in 1974, became a signature look and is recognised worldwide. With the tighter-than-tight high-waisted trousers, open shirt, pale make-up and jewellery, it was pure camp glam rock. The eye patch was just an added bonus.

  • The eyes have it, 1973

    Bowie was known for his complete and utter rejection of society’s prescribed gender norms. He wore make-up and nail varnish and – as the story goes – he even shaved-off his eyebrows while drunk after his song Drive In Saturday was rejected by glam-rock band The Hoople. 

  • Clockwork Orange, 1973

    Bowie’s stage costumes became increasingly flamboyant. Here he is performing at London’s Earl’s Court in 1973 in a costume allegedly inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange

  • Knitted out, 1973

    On the Ziggy Stardust world tour wearing a knitted, asymmetric one-piece.

  • The Thin White Duke, 1976

    In 1974, abandoning the latex for tailored suits, open-collared shirts and slicked-back hair. Bowie introduced his latest persona, The Thin White Duke. Referred to by Bowie as “a nasty character indeed,” The Thin White Duke appeared from 1974-1976, when Bowie was in LA, and was a dapper but troubled character conceived when Bowie was addicted to cocaine. Producing two albums, Young Americans and Station to Station, he sung dark romantic songs, but Bowie said that underneath he felt nothing. The singer later said he had no recollection of creating the music during those years.

  • Dapper Dan, 1983

    Throughout his career, Bowie always returned to a tailored suit. From mustard yellow to mint green, he often opted for a wide lapel, fashionable in the 1970s. This later, pastel-blue suit worn with braces and rolled-up sleeves for a performance in Brussels, shows how Bowie always twisted the classics. 

  • Jareth the Goblin King, 1986

    Bowie acted in Jim Henson’s 1986 children's fantasy film, Labyrinth. In the film, Bowie played the sinister and gaudily-dressed Jareth the Goblin King. Perhaps one of Bowie’s most glitzy get-ups, Jareth wore sequins aplenty and Cleopatra-inspired winged eyeliner.

  • Union Jack, 1997

    From 1996-1997, Bowie’s costumes were designed by Alexander McQueen, including this union jack coat, worn on the cover of the Earthling album. 

  • Indian influence, 1997

    In 1997, Bowie took inspiration from India, wearing this orange and gold embroidered silk outfit, and dyeing his hair to match.

  • Embroidery fan, 2000

    Continuing his love of embroidery and patterns, Bowie wore this long fairy tale-like coat with his natural shoulder-length blonde hair to perform at Glastonbury in 2000.

  • Boyband style, 2003

    Saying goodbye to his different personas didn't stop Bowie being in-tune with the fashions of the time – including this noughties blonde mop, which he sported on stage in 2003. 

  • Smart and sharp, 2008

    Proving that he knew how to dress classically well, Bowie wore a smart black tuxedo to the 2008 Met ball in New York, accompanied by his wife, supermodel Iman.