I like to watch music videos while I’m at the gym. Isn’t that quaint? MTV doesn’t play many music videos these days. I remember when it did. The first video the network aired when it debuted right after midnight on August 1, 1981, was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.
The Buggles need to do a sequel called “The Real World Killed the Video Star.” Now that reality programming has taken over the airwaves, it’s hard to believe that it was MTV that unleashed it on us, not quite a full 11 years after the creation of music television. MTV first aired The Real World in 1992, calling it “…the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house and have their lives taped.” The opening credit narration urged, “Find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.” (The 27th season is set to air this summer.) Since then, we’ve gotten “real” — in an artificial, camera-conscious way — with hoarders, hunters, Hogans, has-beens, housewives, hip-hop hangers-on and huffers, just to name a few examples.
Maybe MTV will revolutionize television again by adding a dose of reality to its reality TV. The coming sixth season of MTV’s Jersey Shore could be much more interesting if it acknowledged the participants’ notoriety instead of continuing to pretend that they’re regular people. That didn’t even fly during the first season, when belligerent locals, drawn to the cameras like moths to the
flame fame, picked fights with MTV’s self-described guidos and guidettes. Now the cameras can’t always avoid the crowds gathered outside the MTV shore house and the store where the stars “work.” With Snooki pregnant and The Situation drying out, this would be a great time to acknowledge that not one of the males of the house would ever manage to bring home a female from a club — no, not even a grenade — if it didn’t mean a few moments of potentially life-ruining TV time for the young lady in question. Though what I really want to see is the consummation of Pauly D’s and Vinny’s not-at-all-heterosexual-seeming bromance, followed by their wedding catered by Vinny’s mother. I envision the other castmates toasting the boys — who are my second-favorite love-match on reality TV; the No. 1 being Ice-T and my idol Coco, of course — with Ron-Ron juice served in red Solo cups.
All of this went through my mind while I was on the elliptical machine yesterday, after I abandoned MTV’s Jersey Shore rerun to flip through the gym’s 10 music-video channels. There’s a rap channel, a top 40 channel, an alternative channel, a dance channel and so on. For a time, it seemed I had found a channel devoted to hot ’80s-’90s French fashion designer Thierry Mugler. Mugler — both the man and the fashion house named for him, which he no longer works for — has had a comeback thanks to the music world. First, I saw Beyonce’s July 2009 “Sweet Dreams” video, in which she’s wearing an armor-like gold bodysuit and matching arm guards by Mugler. (He went on to design costumes for her tour.)
After Beyonce, the February 2010 video for “Imma Be” by the Black Eyed Peas came on. I’m not sure who designed Fergie’s leotard, but it’s Mugler-esque.
That was followed by Lady Gaga’s May/June 2009 “Paparazzi” video, in which Gaga wears a metal bodysuit from Mugler’s Spring/Summer 1991 collection.
If George Michael’s 1992 “Too Funky” — directed and costumed by Mugler himself — had come on next, I might have wondered if someone was playing an elaborate April Fool’s Day prank on me. But the channel went back to normal, non-Mugler programming, so I had to run home to watch “Too Funky” on YouTube.
“Too Funky” has everything: the first music-video appearance of the “Paparazzi” bodysuit; my favorite supermodel, Linda Evangelista; and the fabulous profile of actress Rossy de Palma. It also features Mugler’s original motorcycle bustier, which he recreated for Beyonce after she saw it at the superhero-themed Costume Institute fashion exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It thrills me that the most futuristic looks today’s pop stars can find are designs from the 1990s. The late ’80s and early ’90s are the fashion era I remember most fondly. I occasionally worry that I exaggerate the greatness of it, the way everyone romanticizes the fashion/music/fun of his or her youth. And then I see that current-day divas are totally kissing 1991’s ass and I think, “Yeah, it WAS awesome.” The fact that Lady Gaga’s stylist, Nicola Formichetti, is heading the revived Mugler label — instead of starting his own brand — says it all.
I’ve always kept an eye out for vintage Mugler clothes, the way I do for other ’80s and ’90s designers such as Stephen Sprouse and Todd Oldham. I would have gotten this beaded Mugler jacket from my friend Evan Ross’s store Frock in 2008 if only the jacket’s bosom had aligned a wee bit better with mine.
But, for a long time, most vintage Mugler suits and jackets looked very dated, with their padded shoulders, nipped-in waists and hips accentuated by peplums. After all, one of Mugler’s muses was New York “It” girl Dianne Brill with her 40-24-39 figure, and It girls don’t come in that size anymore.
Mugler’s couture division was shuttered in 2003 — a victim of changing tastes and big losses. Mugler started calling himself “Manfred Mugler” and got into bodybuilding and costume design. I thought we’d never wear the Mugler power suit again. That thought itself was a sign of things to come because there are two things I count on when it comes to style: “Fashion Repeats Itself” and “Never Is the Next New Thing™.” Exaggerated shoulders came back first. Now peplums are the hottest thing around. The (non-Mugler) 1992 leather jacket with peplum that I was dubious about after I got it on eBay in 2010 became one of my favorite things to wear in 2011.
And I accepted Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Award for fine jewelry design while wearing a custom-made peplum dress by my gorgeous friend Stacy Lomman, a women’s ready-to-wear nominee.
It’s definitely time to add an original Mugler to my collection of vintage clothes. There are plenty online that I’m looking at with a fresh eye. Here are just a few that I found.
While I continue browsing, you can re-read my December 2011 Huffington Post story on peplums, or just enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at the “Too Funky” video.
Now that Mugler, shoulders and peplums are back, can we bring back outrageously glamorous, couture-wearing, strutting supermodels too? Please?