Costume queen who still dares to bare
NO one does “nearly nude” like Cher. The most worshipped pop culture style setter of her generation has fabulously flaunted almost-not-there costumes adorned with crystals, sequins and feathers, to provoke controversy and adoration in equal measure for more than five decades.
In cahoots with costumier-tothe-stars Bob Mackie, the 72-yearold pop superstar and awardwinning actor is still wowing fans and fashionistas with her singular style. As she kicked off her Here We Go Again tour in Australia last week with another set of stunning outfits, from Grecian goddess to circus ringleader, Cher said her love affair with her second skin began even before she hit television screens worldwide with The Sonny And Cher Comedy Hour in 1971.
Relatively sedately dressed in black pants and black jacket with white embroidery, she said her love of costumes was partly necessitated by a fear of boredom. And looking boring.
“I like new ones. I started this because I didn’t want to be bored,” she said.
“I didn’t want to just come out on stage and stand there and sing in an outfit. I just didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do something more fun.”
After falling in love with Mackie’s work after a guest appearance on The Carol Burnett Show in 1967, she told the designer, “One day I’d like you to make me one of those beaded dresses.”
He was ready to do that when he called her two years later, as she and then-husband Sonny Bono prepared to launch their own show.
That early television experience no doubt trained her in another skill which would prove indispensable when it came to her solo tours years later — the quick change.
“There were 13 costumes per show. We had the opening, the operas, the big numbers, I always had a solo and the Vamp skit was four costumes itself,” she said.
“I still have some of them, Bob has some of them, some of them we have auctioned off — the ones I didn’t care that much about— because we had so many clothes on Sonny And Cher.”
First she set the tone for the era with her hippie look — the bell-bottoms, the fur vests and long, silky locks — as everyone else still sported beehives. But then Cher and Mackie caused a huge sensation in the 1970s when some of her outfits revealed her navel.
Her scene-stealing outfits became even more outrageous in the 1980s, most memorably at the 1986 Oscars with her Big Bird black feathered headdress and midriffbaring sequined halter dress.
But the most iconic of all her outfits is the barely-there bodysuit and leather jacket ensemble she sported for the If I Could Turn Back Time video in 1989 as she straddled a cannon on the USS Missouri. TV networks banned it and MTV only aired it after 9pm.
She was applauded around the world when she wore a replica of
the outfit at last year’s Billboard Music Awards, the day after her 71st birthday.
The look is regularly revived at fancy dress parties, usually by men. Even this enduring gay icon has no clue why the boys love that bodysuit more than any of her thousands of costumes.
“What it was originally made for was some sort of celebration the mayor was having and I was going to be one of the performers.
“I told Bob I wanted something unusual and really rock’n’roll. And that’s what he came up with,” she said. “I have no idea why men love wearing it … maybe because it takes the piss out of you.
“It takes a sense of humour to wear it; you are not going to be serious in that outfit.”
One of her more demure onscreen outfits was the white pantssuit in her recent star cameo in Mamma Mia 2. Her return to the big screen was greeted with unanimous approval and has fans clamouring for more cinematic Cher.
“I thought I was going to be in Mamma Mia for five minutes and no one will notice me.
“I got to sing Fernando — that was fun … people will enjoy this and then I’ll be gone. But people just seemed overwhelmed by it and I don’t understand it.”
As the screaming and cheering continues on her current tour — her first here in 13 years — one wonders if this really will be her farewell to our stages.
“I don’t know, it depends on whether I’m alive in 13 years. I didn’t know it would take this long,” the singer said.
Sketches and (left) Cher on stage in Newcastle. Picture: AAP
CHER PERFORMS AT WIN ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE ON OCTOBER 16, QUDOS BANK ARENA ON OCTOBER 18 AND 20 AND ICC SYDNEY ON OCTOBER 21.Cher’s Australian tour includes many different looks. Picture: Andrew Macpherson
Cher as icon on her latest tour.