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'The impact of rock style' on display at the Met

Sergeant Pepper suit

February 16, 2000
Web posted at: 11:36 a.m. EST (1636 GMT)

(CNN) -- Imagine Elvis without his bold metallic suit or those blue suede shoes. Envision the Material Girl, Madonna, without her trademark bustier.

The images strike a discordant note, don't they? Fashion and rock, like guitars and strings, naturally go together.

It's no surprise, then, that in recent years music and fashion have experienced a crossover -- videos have featured fashion models, fashion shows have featured rock stars. And the music network VH1 has teamed up with the magazine Vogue to create "Fashion Awards," a high-volume event melding rock and style into a morphed-out mix of glamour and grunge.

Now, the cross-pollination of rock and fashion has been elevated to the next level, one previously reserved for important (and, perhaps, not-so-important) art -- a museum.

"Rock Style," an exhibit highlighting the fashion accompanying the music, is featured now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The show, featuring the attire of 40 rock 'n' rollers, runs through March 19.

The time is right for a show that pays homage to rock 'n' roll's effect on our strike-a-pose lives, says designer Tommy Hilfiger, whose company sponsors the exhibit. "The rockers who have had tremendous impact are the rock stars with music and great style," he says.

The show, says assistant curator Myra Walker, runs the gamut of rock fashion, from pre-VCR to post-MTV. "The impact of rock style on the 20th century is longer lasting than anyone's parents thought it would be," she adds.

Items include that gold suit worn by the King, plus the bustier that figured so prominently in Madonna's video for "Express Yourself," a single off the 1989 album "Like A Prayer."

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Madonna, says Walker, probably deserves a show of her own.

"There probably is not a more influential singer and style maker than Madonna," says Walker. "While she made an impact on hordes of young girls in the '80s ... her kind of spirit serves as an inspiration to all of us to reinvent ourselves on a regular basis."

The show also features the monster get-ups of '70s rockers Kiss; Tina Turner's lace-trim evening dress, designed by the late Gianni Versace; the Union Jack jacket David Bowie wore on his 1996-97 tour; the post-punk outfits favored by the '80s icon group Devo; the trench coat that wrapped itself around the Artist (formerly known as Prince) in his 1984 movie "Purple Rain;" and the pastel, military-cut attire the Beatles chose for the 1967 cover of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

"Many of the costumes have mythic connotations, such as the Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper's' suits, as seen (by most people) only on the cover of an album," says Walker. "While we have seen images and photos (of these outfits) we have never before seen the actual clothing, so they take on a larger meaning for the viewer."

The items come from the Met's Costume Institute collection, the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland or from the private collections of some of the featured stars. The exhibit is organized into five sections: "Poets and Dreamers," "Icons," "Brilliant Disguise," "Rebels" and "High Style."

Though diverse, the outfits share some traits. Like the apparel featured on fashion runways, the items on display were designed to draw the eye, create an image, or both -- and that's why they are remembered.

"Rock," says Walker, "gives us the freedom and license to interject and reinterpret fashion."

CNN Entertainment News Correspondent Bill Tush contributed to this report.

VH1/Vogue dole out fashion awards
December 6, 1999
VH1's 'Behind the Music' serves up the dirty truth
October 12, 1999
Elvis auction racks up a King's ransom
October 11, 1999

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Keith Haring Web Site
Jean-Paul Gaultier

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