‘Have I made fashion mistakes? Of course I have’
Dressing your age? A good idea for mere mortals, perhaps, but a laughable notion for a global megastar. “I had this idea that when you got to be a certain age, somehow, everything would change,” explains 71-year-old Cher, “and you would just go, OK, I’m just going to go into muumuus [smocks] or something. I had this idea, and my friends did too – and I have friends of all ages, I have really young ones and I have, well, there’s nobody older than me except my mother. And it just didn’t happen – we all are wearing pretty much the same things we always wore.”
Of course, when you’re Cher, revisiting a favourite outfit doesn’t go unnoticed. In May, performing If I Could Turn Back Time on stage at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, the septuagenarian wore a black bodysuit with sheer mesh panels – a nearly identical version of the one she wore to perform the song when it first came out in 1989. In both instances, she paired it with a black leather jacket and knee-high boots. “You know, you never leave something. I have this jacket, a leather jacket, that I love, and I’ve had for a long time, and I said, you know, I’m gonna wear this leather jacket until I can’t get into it any more. I’ve got a T-shirt that I got in the Seventies that I still wear.
“I think that the generation before ours just felt that at some point they had to dress in a different way, maybe more ladylike, or maybe cut their hair for some unknown reason that I still haven’t been able to figure out. I mean, you can’t wear everything that you wore when you were 40 when you get older, but I think if you can wear it, you should. If you can’t, then stop.”
It is this youthful exuberance and refusal to kowtow to expectations of how a seventysomething should behave that makes Cher so, well, Cher.
As well as her penchant for skin-tight leotards, she is an active Twitter user, posting to her 3.5million followers on everything from pictures of her swanky Vegas pad to her disapproval of President Trump. Her popularity on the microblogging site has reached such heights that Buzzfeed celebrated 100 of Cher’s Best Tweets in 2016 last year.
Cher has starred in films, on Broadway, in her own TV show. It is her musical career, though, that has earned her the most loyal fans. The word icon is far too easily used, but in this case, it is entirely accurate.
Her contralto voice is instantly recognisable, but it is not just the voice – it is never just the voice – with Cher. Her long-running partnership with costumier Bob Mackie has spawned outfits that are still being hailed by fashion designers decades later; she keeps her flamboyant pieces in a “climate controlled area so they don’t fall apart. There are costumes [from] the Sonny and Cher Show, on the Cher Show, or on certain tours; there are things that you just love, and even if you don’t wear them again, sometimes you give them to charity.”
There are certain outfits she can’t bear to part with, however, but had a change of heart at the last minute. “You think, maybe some people would like to see them,” she says by way of explanation.
There’s no doubt that her most notable looks, from her sheer feathered jumpsuit at the 1974 Met Gala to her beaded headpiece that graced the front of her
1979 Prisoner album cover, would make for a worthy fashion retrospective at the V&A.
Indeed her looks have sparked numerous fancy-dress costumes,
TV skits, drag acts. But with icon status comes a huge amount of expectation from her legions of fans.
“I’m not so sure if it’s to impress,” she muses, “I think it’s to not disappoint. To make people feel interested and good. That’s why I dress up, and the reason I don’t mind, or that I actually enjoy, dressing up to go to a premiere, or on stage. I would just be bored to sobs if I had to just go around like this all the time, I think what works for me is a balance.”
She insists that she doesn’t opt for barely-there mesh or flamboyant headgear when off duty, when she’s “not glamorous at all! Mostly I wear leggings and sweatshirts, ratty old clothes: I don’t care very much when I’m just not doing anything. I’m extreme in both ways, but it seems to work out.”
Her latest turn is as the star of Gap’s new campaign, “Meet Me in the Gap”, alongside rapper Future. The American brand is well known for promoting diversity, inclusion and acceptance, making Cher a natural fit.
Her son, Chaz Bono, came out as a lesbian in the Nineties and announced he was transgender in 2009 and she continues to back the LGBT community, with an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to “Cher as a gay icon”. The Gap video sees Cher and Future collaborate on Sly and the Family Stone’s 1969 hit Everyday People: it seeks to prove what can be achieved when people embrace their common ground. “That song is very timely,” agrees Cher, who regularly tweets about politics, adding: “I thought all this stuff [political unrest] would be over by now.”
She was also keen to collaborate with someone she knew little about – the pair “got along really well, and he was fun, and cute. I don’t really know his music all that well, but it was interesting to work with him.”
For a woman whose style has resonated with generations, and is now reaching another thanks to Gap, which sees her try the brand’s staple denim jacket, white T and jeans, she doesn’t take her sartorial legacy as seriously as you might think.
Has she made fashion mistakes? “Oh God, yeah, I’m sure I have. Of course I have. But you know what? So it lasts for a second and then it’s gone. It’s not a big deal. I honestly think that looking good is more important than looking fashionable.”
There is no doubting that Cher is happy ins her own skin, as the pictures she posts of herself decked in lace bodices and towering heels attest. “I pretty much dress for myself, and I just wear what I like,” she says with Cher-like confidence. “You are who you are, and I don’t see the reason to change who you are.”
‘Looking good is more important than looking fashionable’
Watch the Meet Me in the Gap autumn campaign at gap.com
Believe: at 71, Cher, the star of Gap’s latest campaign, says she dresses how she wants; right, at Wembley, 1990; at this year’s Billboard Music Awards, below