Curator’s Choice – David Bowie Bodice

Posted: 8th September 2020

Humber Museums Partnership - Curator’s Choice – David Bowie Bodice

This bodice, also known as a boob tube, was created by a dedicated David Bowie fan who stitched every sequin on by hand in 1973. The final and original creation makes a bold statement about their taste in music. There are white sequins going across the front of the bodice which spell out ‘Dave Bowie’ rather than ‘David Bowie’. Maybe this was deliberate, but it is much more likely that the person making the bodice ran out of room and had to shorten the name.

David Bowie was born David Jones in 1947. He became a leading singer and songwriter in the music industry and is considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. He sold over an estimated 140 million records worldwide throughout his career and remains a popular figure following his death in 2016 after an 18-month battle with cancer.

David Bowie was known for frequently re-inventing his music and image. He often explored gender and sexuality in this way and promoted acceptance of difference.

During an interview in 1972 Bowie came out as gay. Four years later, during another interview he stated, “It’s true – I am a bisexual”. However, in 1983 he once again commented on his sexuality during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, saying “I was always a closet heterosexual.”

Despite this, David Bowie’s influence on his LGBTQ+ fans is undeniable. When he first announced that he was gay in the early 70s, discussing sexuality so openly as a public figure was rare, and Bowie did so with no shame. This provided positive visibility for many communities who continue to strive for equality to this day.

In 1972 during the glam-rock era, Bowie released his fifth studio album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Spoiler alert – the Spiders were actually from Hull.

The album tells the story of Ziggy Stardust, a fictional androgynous, bisexual rock star who acts as a messenger for extra-terrestrial beings. Bowie embraced the character of Ziggy Stardust, but after ‘living’ as him on stage he found it difficult to separate himself from what he had created, saying Ziggy “wouldn’t leave me alone for years”.

Bowie’s initial coming out as gay has been suggested to have been a publicity stunt by some for this album, but his popularity with his LGBTQ+ fans was not overshadowed by that of Ziggy Stardust. People identified with him over his character and he was, and still is, often credited with providing fans with the confidence to be themselves and embrace their individuality.

Hull-born Mick Ronson played lead guitar in Bowie’s Spiders from Mars band and was a major collaborator with David Bowie from 1970 to 1973.

In July 1972 they performed ‘Starman’ on Top of the Pops. This performance introduced Ziggy Stardust to the nation. While some were mesmerised, others were outraged. Bowie wore a multi-coloured jump-suit and had striking bright red hair. During the song Bowie stares directly down the camera and drapes his arm affectionately around Ronson, often gazing at him throughout.

This performance changed the way many thought overnight. Some viewers voiced their disapproval of Bowie’s “flamboyant” behaviour, but many cite this as a pivotal point in their lives, in reference to not only the music, but their personal lives too.

In 2016 the BBC’s Mark Easton wrote that Britain became “far more tolerant of difference” and that gay rights would not have “enjoyed the broad support they do today without Bowie’s androgynous challenge all those years ago”.

Written by Community Curator: Social History Lauren Field.

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