Is the guy working in the cubicle across from you who wears cargo pants and a short-sleeve plaid shirt every day an example of the state of fashion today? Or perhaps the VP of marketing, who wears stiletto heels, primary colors and her hair tightly constrained in a bun is more of a fashion plate?
The truth is that either of these examples represent a type of fashion. The first fashion is a practical, relaxed look. The second is a set of questionable choices for what might be worn in the workplace. Fashion is essentially whatever a person or a segment of the population chooses to wear. And if one person says another person is not wearing something that is in fashion, what the judging person is really saying is that the other person’s choice of clothing does not match the standards or habits of the person judging.
But if we want to talk about haute couture, or high fashion, it is a completely different conversation. High fashion is essentially that fashion which is developed for a very specific purpose- often to create some kind of spectacle for a specific event. Thus, the use of fashion in Lady Gaga’s music videos is a major part of the kind of performer she is.
In all honesty, if you take a candid sampling of Lady Gaga’s music, you will find that it’s fairly pedestrian. She doesn’t say much of anything new, nor does she have a particularly engaging singing voice. But she is so much more than a pop singer. Lady Gaga is a performer, and thus everything she does and wears becomes part of her art and performance.
Take, for example, the opening of Telephone, her video and song with Beyonce. At the beginning of the video, she is being lead into a lockdown facility while wearing an outfit with immensely wide shoulder pads and deep cut in the front. Its pattern is zebra, essentially. This clothing item is a perfect example of high fashion; you could very easily see such a thing on a boy-shaped model on the runways of Madrid or New York.
This fashion is only a part, however, of Lady Gaga’s performance. Notice that Telephone is also a 9 minute long video and features a story that pushes the edges of any kind of believability and features her in all sorts of situations and positions. This type of performance could also be considered ‘high fashion’ in the music video world. Essentially, Lady Gaga in all of her performance behavior is doing her best to stay to the very front edges of fashion in her dress, performance, and videos.
Another example of this is the leotard in LoveGame. This is not a flattering ensemble; indeed it does not even qualify as an ensemble. It is more of a single-unit clothing item. And she wears it on a subway, probably in New York. This juxtaposition of high fashion clothing and drudgery of a commute jar the viewer and engage the attention. This is an effective use, by Lady Gaga, of fashion that stands out to say something about who she is and what she will do for her art.
Like her or not, Lady Gaga is innovating the use of fashion in clothing and performance art in her music videos. They are visually demanding and very unusual experiences. Likely this is exactly what she is trying to do. And it’s working for her.