Party frock or military uniform?: Mick Jagger performing gender at Hyde Park, London, 5th July 1969.

On a summer’s afternoon in 1969, Mick Jagger bounds onto the stage set up in Hyde Park with characteristic explosive energy. He swaggers across the stage, donning a white dress designed by Michael Fish, paired with white flared trousers and clutching a battered book of poetry. Bowing and blowing kisses to adoring fans, he oozes an aura of masculine self-assurance as his balloon sleeves and gathered skirt waft around him.

Figure 1: Mick Jagger reading an excerpt from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s elegy Adonais in memory of Brian Jones, 5th July 1969, Robert Hunt Library/Shutterstock

Their first performance in two years, what the Rolling Stones had intended as a free concert to give back to the fans they had somewhat abandoned during this time, as well as to introduce their new band member, Mick Taylor, as Brian Jones’ replacement, ended up as a more sombre affair. Jones had been dismissed from the band in June that year due to his struggle with addiction, resulting in the multifaceted musician and originally integral element to The Stones becoming a liability not only to the band’s recording sessions and success, but also to himself. Brian Jones was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool on 2nd July, three days before the concert.

Jagger attempts to calm the crowd with the fragile authority of a substitute teacher struggling to tame a classroom of hormone-fuelled teenagers. But, because he’s Mick Jagger, he (just about) pulls it off.

‘OOOOWWRRIGHT! Okay now listen! Will you just cool it for just a minute because I really would like to say something for Brian.’ He resorts to ‘OKAY ARE YOU GOING TO BE QUIET OR NOT?’, which seemingly settles the gathered spectators. Jagger proceeds to recite a few verses from Shelley’s poem Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats. The touching words of Shelley honouring a fellow artist struck down in his youth feel hauntingly relevant. Despite Jagger’s slightly wooden recital, it is a moving and fitting tribute. Hundreds of white butterflies were then shaken out of cardboard boxes, fluttering above the stage and crowd in dizzy liberation. Yet what is most memorable about this iconic performance is that dress. Not many men could wield the same degree of authority over a crowd of 250,000 to 500,000 people whilst wearing a dress that was compared to a ‘little girl’s white party frock’ by the British press. Jagger, luckily, is one of them.

There is undeniable androgynous hybridity to Jagger’s ensemble. The white dress is ornately decorated with a ruffled collar and cuffs which mirror the pleated skirt, billowing full sleeves, and individual bow fastenings down the fitted bodice. All of these intricate details do evoke a young girl’s frock. The dress-making pattern image from the 1950s below exhibits the femininity and girlishness of puff sleeves, delicate collars and bows, and full skirts, which are arguably paralleled, or parodied, by Jagger’s garment.

Figure 2: Girl’s One-Piece Vintage Dress Sewing Pattern: Flower Girl, Party Dress, 1st Communion, 1950’s, Simplicity Pattern Co.

Designer Michael Fish was a pioneer of the ‘Peacock Revolution’. The evolution of menswear shifted drastically throughout the 1960s, prioritising rich fabrics, extravagant colours and more effeminate silhouettes over traditional tailoring. Mr Fish, a boutique in Mayfair, stocked and sold his flamboyant garments, from frilled silk shirts to men’s caftans, to the emerging demographic of the London dandy. Below, we see Michael Fish wearing one of his designs, with almost identical ornate details of ruffled collar and bow fastenings to Jagger’s dress. The context of the sexual revolution, triggered by the circulation of the contraceptive pill in Britain from 1963, brought in an era of sexual liberation, meaning that men could challenge traditional notions of masculinity and indulge in androgynous ways of dress.

Figure 3: Michael Fish and Barry Sainsbury, 1968, Courtesy of Mason & Sons

Jagger did not stop at dressing in a feminine manner. He went as far as adopting the female gender signifiers of long hair and makeup in a convincing performance of gender play. His eyes are shrouded in mysterious smokiness and his infamous pout is accentuated by lipstick as his hair sweeps down past his shoulders. Having said this, Jagger’s dress can also be read as a display of masculinity. The full, pleated skirt arguably evokes the fustanella – a skirt-like garment worn throughout South East Europe, but in particular by the Evzone elite ceremonial unit of the Greek Royal Guard (below, left).

Figure 4: The Archbishop Regent Damaskinos of Greece with an Evzone Guard at the Regency in Athens, 15 February 1945, Capt. Tanner War Office official photographer, Imperial War Museum

The dramatic flare of the Evzone Guard’s sleeve combined with the fullness of the kilt-like skirt both hint at the yards of fabric that have gone into the construction of this garment, whilst simultaneously providing a prototype for the defining features of Jagger’s frock. Origins on the fustanella date back to the nineteenth century, but the garment is also perhaps a continuation of men’s short tunics from Ancient Greece. Looking back to another time or another country became an increasingly important source of fashion influence throughout the 1960s.  Arguably Jagger was drawn to Michael Fish’s garment as it takes inspiration from then and there to challenge the gender divide of here and now.

Figure 5: Mick Jagger performing at Hyde Park in 1969, Ray Stevenson/Shutterstock

Later on in the performance, as the afternoon heat descends, Jagger removes his smock, untying each individual bow to release himself from his effeminate exterior. Beneath, he is wearing a simple vest which exposes his slender but undeniably masculine frame. Therefore in its fluid state, gender, like clothing, can be tried on, worn, taken off and worn again. Such was the case for Jagger. Not only was he rumoured to have worn this same dress to his financial adviser’s white-themed party two days before, but he also revisited this look forty four years later with a strikingly similar white smock garment during The Rolling Stones’ return to Hyde Park in 2013.

Figure 6: Mick Jagger performing at Hyde Park in 2013, Roger Tooth for the Guardian

 By Claudia Stanley

 

 

Sources:

 

The Rolling Stones – Tribute to Brian Jones / I’m Yours and I’m Hers (Hyde Park 1969)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQ5VhQMgjYw

Costantino, Maria. Men’s Fashion in the Twentieth Century: from frock coats to intelligent fibres. London: B. T. Batsford LTD, 1997.

Langkjær, Michael A. A case of misconstrued Rock Military Style: Mick Jagger and his Evzone “little girl’s party frock” fustanella, Hyde Park, July 5, 1969. Historical, sociological and methodological approaches. Conference Proceedings, Athens, 9-11 April 2010. Nafplion: Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation, 2012.

Langkjær, Michael A. ‘Then how can you explain Sgt. Pompous and the Fancy Pants Club Band?’ Utilization of Military Uniforms and Other Paraphernalia by Pop Groups and the Youth Counterculture in the 1960s and Subsequent Periods. Textile history, Vol. 41, no. 1. Published online 19 Jul 2013.

https://doi.org/10.1179/174329510X12646114289824

Lester, Richard. Boutique London, A History: King’s Road to Carnaby Street. Suffolk: ACC Editions, 2010.

Luther Hillman, Betty. Dressing for the Culture Wars: Style and the Politics of Self-Presentation in the 1960s and 1970s. Lincoln, Nebraska : University of Nebraska Press, 2015.

Morgen, Brett. Crossfire Hurricane: The Rise of the Stones. London: Milkwood Films, Los Angeles: Tremolo Productions, 18th October 2012.

Sims, Joshua. Rock Fashion, London and New York: Omnibus Press, 1999.

The Politics of a “Wardrobe Malfunction”

 

I have a dream this Super Bowl season. Now, to be quite honest, I do not follow American football at all, but I do follow the halftime performances. This year, Justin Timberlake performed at the Super Bowl LII halftime show over a decade after his infamous performance with Janet Jackson. While I am a big fan of the “Prince of Pop” and can honestly say that Justified was the catalyst for my sexual awakening, the way in which Janet Jackson (and the female body for that matter) was chastised after Nipplegate is not only telling of America’s ongoing “fear” of the of the female body entering the public sphere, specifically the black female body, but also the legitimization of rape culture’s place in the public sphere.  Nipplegate became a discursive event in that it affirmed the existence of rape culture within the public sphere. After the alleged “wardrobe malfunction”, topics regarding broadcasting censorship and free speech came into question. The Federal Communications Commission fined CBS over half a million dollars for the incident to set a precedent for this type of overexposure.

The performance wardrobe of both Jackson and Timberlake aided in the cementing of their public image as popstars, but in different ways. At the time of the performance, the public image of Janet Jackson was arguably branded as a sexualized, mature, political, divorcée. Wayne Scot Lukas, Janet Jackson’s stylist for the show, said in an interview with Channel Guide Magazine that, “For the Super Bowl we had to really have a special, big outfit to create some kind of look that was going to be really magical. I told you the war had started, so we were thinking it had to be semi-military, but it had to still be a little bit sexy and fun.”[1] The semi-military inspired look was appropriate for the show because the public was still coming to terms with the United States’ decision to invade Iraq. Instead of the militarization of armed bodies, Janet’s performance wanted to inspire the militarization of the youth voice. The use of military outfits in music performances was popularized by Jackson’s brother, Michael, and has become a symbol of resistance towards hegemonic forms of power when used by minorities. Justin Timberlake was only 23 at the time of the performance, he had recently released his first solo album Justified (2003) after his split from the boy-band, NSYNC. His public image rested on his youth, his looks, and also his new bachelor status after Britney Spears cheated on him, ending their three-year relationship together. Timberlake, was branded as the heartbroken and tortured artist trying to find his way after he was scorned by love. Justin’s outfit lacks a political motivation. He is dressed casually in baggy jeans paired with an oversized shirt and jacket—a precursor to the f*c@boy image and style.

Timberlake joins Jackson on the stage to perform his single Rock Your Body. In their performance, Janet plays the love interest. Both playfully dance with each across the stage. Timberlake chases Jackson as she coquettishly plays “hard to get”. At the end of the performance, Timberlake finally catches Jackson in a moment of embrace and rips the bust of her bustier revealing Jackson’s breast. The camera stills, but only for a moment to catch both Timberlake and Jackson in a state of shock and then the stadium lights immediate fade to black. Planned or not, the action of ripping one’s clothes is an act of aggression. The immediate fade to black and blame for the incident on Jackson and her team perpetuates rape culture in the way that it normalized Jackson’s body as an explicit sexual object meant to be censored, while also promoting victim blaming (establishing a whodunit? rhetoric) and slut shaming vis-à-vis her outfit and flashy nipple clamp. Timberlake was portrayed as the naïve and innocent one, who claimed to not know anything while also refusing to acknowledge any possible chance of responsibility.

My dream this Super Bowl halftime show is a small one. I wish for Janet Jackson to storm the stage on live TV during Justin’s performance in an all-black gritty, military-inspired wardrobe (which is still appropriate today), with big hair, attitude, and a full dance troupe so that people remember her halftime performance as what it should have been remembered 13 years ago–iconic.

[1] Acken, Lori. “Nat Geo’s The 2000s: A New Reality – Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl Stylist Wayne Scot Lukas Tells Us What Really Down.” Channel Guide Magazine, 12 July 2015, www.channelguidemag.com/tv-news/2015/07/09/nat-geos-the-2000s-a-new-reality-janet-jacksons-super-bowl-stylist-wayne-scot-lukas-tells-us-what-really-down/.

By Destinee Forbes