This book is a do-it-yourself guide to recreating the costumes, clothes and make up of pop-star and fashion icon, Boy George. It features step-by-step instructions and patterns to make homemade and customised versions of some of Boy George’s most iconic outfits, from the glam rock-influenced, geisha-drag Kimono to the ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ stars and stripe nightshirt. The end of the book is dedicated to setting out how to recreate the dramatic eye make-up and exaggerated contours that George sported throughout the 80s.
Born George O’Dowd in Eltham, London in 1961, Boy George became one of the standout figures of queer style in 80s Britain. As a young gay man he became a minor celebrity on the London club scene. He rose to prominence as one of the infamous ‘Blitz kids’ (a name given to a group of young people who partied at the Blitz night club in Convent Garden and were known for their experimental style). Credited with launching the New Romantic subculture, the Blitz club was conveniently located for fashion students from St Martin’s College and the Central School of Art and Design, such as John Galliano and Stephen Jones. They used the club to test out experimental designs. Boy George’s own inventive and flamboyant homemade outfits and distinctive make-up attracted the attention of music executive and punk provocateur Malcolm McLaren. McLaren arranged for George to perform with Bow Wow Wow, a band that he and his partner Vivienne Westwood had set up to promote their own New Romantic fashion lines. When this arrangement didn’t work out, George formed and fronted his own band, the internationally successful pop-reggae-soul fusion group, Culture Club.
As lead singer of Culture Club, Boy George was equally famous for his experimental style as he was for his soulful voice. His unique look for Culture Club was created in collaboration with fashion designers including Sue Clowes and Dexter Wong. It was widely mimicked by both male and female fans. Boy George’s style was based on androgyny, glamour, excess and the fusing of different cultural references. He combined braided and ragged hair, Rastafarian head wraps, traditional hats worn by Hasidic Jewish men, over-sized suits, kimonos, sportswear and long loose-fitting coats. Some commentators have suggested that Boy George’s incorporation of elements of Hassidic Jewish dress may have been influenced by his closeted relationship with Culture Club drummer, Jon Moss, who is Jewish.
In this book, his look is also described as ‘deliberately sexually ambiguous - just like Boy George himself’. Boy George, together with his friend, the performance artist and fashion designer Leigh Bowery (1961-1994), are credited with reinstating the performative, extroverted and creative gay persona. This challenged the conventional ‘clone’ image adopted by the majority of gay men at that time. Indeed, he even wore t-shirts printed with the phrase ‘clone war’ to make clear that his style was a deliberate campaign against conventional and homogenised dressing. The ‘clone’ look emphasised masculinity and cleanliness and typically consisted of blue jeans, tight white t-shirts or polo shirts, paired with either leather jackets or plaid shirts. However, as George points out in this book, he was not a particularly effeminate person and though he used clothes as performance, he was never a drag-queen. He did not ‘wear dresses’ but wore a ‘male and female mix’ of clothes that deliberately blurred the distinctions between genders.