Let’s get things straight: you don’t follow Eurovision for fashion. Or rather, although in numerical terms it is the most important musical show in the world, it manages to remain quite immune to fashion system traditionally understood. Between Turquoise Carpet (this is the name of the opening ceremony of the singing event with the parade of participants in the competition from all countries), press conferences and performances that reach about 200 million spectators, there is no presence of big brands as happens on other occasions of enormous visibility.
The Italian public he has in mind the Sanremo Festival model in front of the television that broadcasts the event with about forty “champions” of countries that sometimes he does not even know how to place on the map, he is usually surprised to see such exaggerated looks, sometimes grotesque or capable of touching heights of exquisite kitsch.
It’s a show labeled, perhaps unfairly, as trash when instead it would be considered as a kaleidoscope of sounds, colors and different tastes. In a picture of this type, it would therefore be more appropriate to talk about costumes rather than clothes.
Let’s take stock, on the eve of the 66th edition that this year, thanks to victory of the Måneskin in Rotterdamwill take place in Turin on 10, 12 and 14 May, the date on which the final evening is scheduled.
The outfits are conceived as an integral part of the three-minute performance, a show on show in which each artist shoots their cartridges to amaze. Sometimes clothes are canvases to be filled with light or flaps of fabric to flutter on stage together with the strands of hair waved by the artificial wind while the tight-fitting suitsvery often in sequins, accompany the wild dances of singers who also leverage their undoubted sex appeal.
Then there is a separate category, those who choose to wear one reinterpretation of traditional clothing with most often questionable effects. It is not only women who dare but also men indulge in reckless looks among sartorial creations that look like sculptures or gaudy outfits with a high rate of eccentricity. One element that Eurovision does not lack are feathers. We have several angels with wings but also several bird dress.
The most famous of all is the one the Israeli wore Dana Internationalthe first transsexual to participate in Eurovision, winning it among other things, designed by the great signature of jean paul Gaultier. In reality it can only be seen in the photos in which he collects the prize: his participation in his homeland was already discussed, he did not want to exaggerate by dressing up as a bird. However, he did not want to give up that creation: for the change of clothes he made him wait a long time for his return on stage to celebrate the victory. Gaultier is one of the recurring fashion names: in 2012 he took care of the look of Anggun which represented France.
Even if it hasn’t welcomed big names in fashion, that stage from 1956 to today has nevertheless hosted great epochal changes. In 1966 the Norwegian Åse Kleveland she was not only the first singer to perform with an instrument, a guitar specifically, but also the first to go on stage with pants and not with an evening dress.
The following year it was the turn of the British Sandie Shaw who took first place in Vienna with a short model dress Swinging London decorated with pearls and without shoes, becoming the first of a series of barefoot singers at Eurovision and not only.
The date that changed Eurovision forever, even for what concerns the imaginary, is April 6, 1974 when four Swedish boys called Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Fridarrived on the Brighton stage earlier than the director dressed like Napoleon with clothes created by what was considered the Vivienne Westwood Swede, Inger Svenneke.
That combination of folk hints and references to the nineteenth century together with a splash of glam given by the wedge boots has remained etched in the imagination. Those were ABBA and con Waterloo they won that edition. In style and training, the four Swedish boys have boasted numerous attempts at imitation, sometimes even successful. As in the case of Brotherood of Man in 1976 or of the Bucks Fizz In 1981.
One of the most famous photos in the Eurovision annals is that of an almost unknown girl Celine Dion with a white double-breasted jacket and a tulle skirt. Easy to criticize that outfit today but we know very well that even worse was done in the 80s.
In 1993, a nineteen-year-old Belgian called appeared on stage Barbara Dex. The girl had the unfortunate idea of sewing the dress herself with consequences that she would never have imagined: the Dutch fan site eurovisivi House of Eurovision established in 1997 the prize in his own name to the worst dressed artist of the event. When the Belgian site SongFestival.be took over the award in 2017 and wanted to renew the initiative by removing the strongly negative connotation. Since the operation of rebranding did not go through, the promoters have decided to retire the Barbara Dex Award this year however, inventing something new. The You’re a Vision Award (note the pun), a brand new prize awarded to the best outfit evaluated for creativity, celebration of diversity, culture and storytelling.
In the 2000s the spectacular part that we still know today takes over. Women’s clothes are starting to become more skimpy for performances in which music often accompanies the detachment of the thighs but men also undress and men’s looks are filled with sequins, lurex and inevitable feathers.
The most striking case is represented by Grossa Finnish heavy metal group in which the band members took the stage dressed as monsters. Weirdness was rewarded: Lordi won by becoming in 2006 the first rock band to win Eurovision.
2007 is also one of those years in which history is made. Two drag queens participate in the edition held in Helsinki. The best known is Verka Serduchkathe name behind which the Ukrainian artist Andrij Mychajlovyč Danylko is hidden: an explosive combo of rhythm and mirrored costumes Dancing Lasha Tumbai one of the milestones of the event. She has left her mark far less DQartist representing Denmark, who filled the television screen with fuchsia feathers and sequins while singing the song Drama Queen.
As the technology took hold, the costumes have adapted, sometimes becoming the piece of a scenography. Let’s think about Aliona Moon competing for Moldova in 2013: her skirt of more than 5 meters was the cloth on which to project fire and ice. In 2018, the Estonian delegation did not even know how to bring those 52 square meters of dress into which the artist was embedded on stage Elina Nechayeva. Obviously, projections were transferred to the skirt that wanted to increase the drama of the piece. To make the sense of Zero Gravitythe Australian artist Kate Miller-Heidke in 2019 she floated on stage with a dress made by the designer Steven Khalil with metallic tulle and sheer organza. A creation that took more than 100 hours of work.
We said that on the Eurovision stage it is not the big names of luxury that the local designers who are well known in the motherland do. The most interesting case is that of Jamalathe Ukrainian artist who won the 2016 edition. Fu Vogue Ukraine to launch a call for the designer who would dress the artist. She got it right Ivan Frolova stylist at the age of twenty-two.
To understand the importance that the event has for many countries (perhaps simplifying we could say all except Italy) just think of a recent episode. In the 2021 edition the Lithuanian group The Roop he dressed entirely in yellow with clothes made by the luxury brand MK Drama Queen founded in 2014 by Monika Paulikaitė and Kotryna Armonaitė. To the designer duo the same Official tourism agency of Vilnius asked to dress some of the most famous sculptures in the city with yellow clothing.
“We believe in our representatives at Eurovision and we want to support them in every possible way” declared the mayor of Vilnius Remigijus Šimašius “we not only wish them success but we thank them for making our country and our capital famous”. In Lithuania, they have fully understood theesprit of the event.
Other stories of Vanity Fair that may interest you:
– Eurovision Song Contest 2021, all the looks (and our votes)
– Victoria De Angelis dei Måneskin: sexy, glamor and molto rock
– Laura Pausini, her most beautiful looks waiting for her return to Sanremo