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c. 1971

Bowie’s man dress

We present David Bowie, one incarnation before the arrival of shock-headed Ziggy Stardust.

It was his Veronica Lake phase. We present David Bowie, one incarnation before the arrival of shock-headed Ziggy Stardust. Yes, sad to say those beautiful locks were all for the chop — and so was the dress.

In 1971, we saw two seminal records from Bowie: The Man Who Sold the World and Hunky Dory. The latter, which boasted “Changes,” “Life on Mars” and “Oh You Pretty Things,” had a cover shot of Bowie channeling Veronica. But the earlier album was hidden behind a more controversial photograph.  

It featured a garment that was a ‘man’s dress,’ according to Bowie, and the work of then en-vogue fashion designer Michael Fish. For Bowie, this dress was significant, so much so that he wore it on the front of his second proper solo album, The Man Who Sold The World.

But boy oh boy, did it not fit the music inside that album’s sleeve. Bowie had created (or rather his producer Tony Visconti and guitarist Mick Ronson had created, Bowie had instructed) a record very much in keeping with the nascent heavy rock/metal sound of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Riffs, bass, drums and little else.

Denim over dresses

Needless to say, the audience who bought such music favored denim over dresses. In the States, the sleeve was deemed to be so controversial that it was scrapped entirely and replaced by a more “American” cartoon drawing of a James Dean-esque cowboy with a gun under his arm. Subtle.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, Bowie was living in the lower half of a small Victorian mansion — Haddon Hall, in Beckenham. It was there that Bowie recorded the album, and also where he was photographed, dress-clad, with and without his wife Angie, and friend Freddie Burretti.

In one shot, Bowie is smiling and looks a little embarrassed. But was he? Perhaps for a moment. But only a moment.

The cover of The Man Who Sold The World
Bowie (aka Veronica Lake) on the cover of Hunky Dory
The real Veronica Lake
The dress photoshoot of Bowie at home at Haddon Hall. The woman is his wife Angie, the man is designer (and Bowie protegé Freddie Buretti)
Peter Stone/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
The dress photoshoot of Bowie at home at Haddon Hall.
Peter Stone/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
David Bowie at his home, Haddon Hall, at Beckenham, Kent, 20th April 1971
Peter Stone/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
The dress photoshoot of Bowie at home at Haddon Hall. The woman is his wife Angie, the man is designer (and Bowie protegé Freddie Buretti)
Peter Stone/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
The dress photoshoot of Bowie at home at Haddon Hall. The woman is his wife Angie, the man is designer (and Bowie protegé Freddie Buretti)
Peter Stone/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
The dress photoshoot of Bowie at home at Haddon Hall. The woman is his wife Angie, the man is designer (and Bowie protegé Freddie Buretti)
Peter Stone/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
The dress photoshoot of Bowie at home at Haddon Hall. The woman is his wife Angie, the man is designer (and Bowie protegé Freddie Buretti)
Peter Stone/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
The dress photoshoot of Bowie at home at Haddon Hall. The woman is his wife Angie, the man is designer (and Bowie protegé Freddie Buretti)
Peter Stone/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Bowie jams at a party thrown by publicist and future nightclub impresario and DJ Rodney Bingenheimer at lawyer Paul Figen’s house in January 1971, Los Angeles, California.
Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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