Lady-Gaga-and-skeleton header

As friends and family already know, I love me some anatomical charts, grotesque dissections of the intricate layers of the human body, old-timey skeletons and medical charts of muscle groups and the nervous system, etc. It appeals to my love of dissection in general, I think: peeling away layers of a body — or a topic (i.e. fashion) — in order to better understand the interconnectivity between seemingly disparate systems and subjects. It has therefore been will great relish that I’ve explored the blog Street Anatomy which collects art, design, and fashion, as related to anatomy (check out the Fashion and Products + Apparel categories). Here are some of my favorites:

“Vertebrae” necklace c. 2002 by Molly Epstein, Temple student. Glass-filled nylon.

And I was blown away at the hand-bleached skeleton hoodie:

by Derek Bones Bo, using bleach like fabric paint

Another, more shameful, addiction I’ve indulged lately is Lady Gaga videos. Lady Gaga shares my fascination with anatomy, often merging the robotic and mechanical with flesh and blood in her always deliciously ridiculous outfits. Several of her videos feature men with metal prostheses — a jaw, an eye patch — and she herself assumes a kind of crippled robot appearance after falling from a balcony during a lovers’ scuffle:

Paparazzi video

This photo is terrible quality, but it still gives the full package of this awesomely crazy ensemble — and yes, those are braces she’s clutching (while in stilettos, no less!):


“Paparazzi” video

Though it’s more of a brace gone awry, the costume very much reminds me of the robot woman in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), playing with the idea of anatomy that mimics humans’ but is actually android:

Fritz Lang’s “Metroplis” robot

I love this double bustier, which highlights how somewhat arbitrarily the corset (an exoskeleton if ever there was one) has dictated where breasts fall —

Lady Gaga - Paparazzi - double bustier

“Paparazzi” video

sometimes pushed flat (as in the 16th century),

Hans Holbein’s “Jane Seymour,” 1536

sometimes hoisted up to the collarbone.

David’s “Comtesse Daru,” 1810

And while this exaggerated, padded ribcage / spine seems edgy in 2009…

Lady Gaga "Bad Romance"

“Bad Romance” video

it was downright scandalous in 1938 when Elsa Schiaparelli designed the dress version (which I want sooooo bad, by the way):

Elsa Schiaparelli’s skeleton dress, 1938

Even when her costumes don’t mimic metal armor, Lady Gaga favors clothes that are extremely restrictive, and hard or voluminous to the point of hilarious and delightful impracticality: essentially sartorial exoskeletons that often cover her very head and face. I highly recommend youtubing her full videos even if you don’t like her music, but beware: they are highly addictive and you too might end up loving her somewhat against your will.

Like every so-called cutting edge, influential trend setter, Lady Gaga is not without her influences. I see a lot of Helmut Newton (possibly my favorite fashion photographer) in Lady G’s style:

Helmut Newton’s “Jassara,” 1977

Helmut Newton’s “Jane Kirby,” crutches, 1977

Newton had a series juxtaposing live models with identical mannequins, as on the cover of his fantastically awesome book:

Helmut Newton’s “Berlin,” 1994

He also had an usual series of ads that were actually x-rays of the products (jewelry, shoes), directly comparing and contrasting the metal prongs and hinges to the bones and joints of the women wearing the baubles:

Helmut Newton’s X-Ray, ad for boot by Karl Lagerfeld

Helmut Newton’s “X-Ray,” Van Cleef and Arpels ad, 1979

As much as I myself love adorning my body with beautiful underwear and clothes and jewelry and hats, there’s something beautiful, raw and powerful in the brutal functionality of human anatomy. Being somewhat of a prude in terms of body coverage, the idea of wearing modest layers that suggest the stripping away of clothes (and skin) appeals to me greatly, also satisfying my  penchant for the grotesque.  It’s not such a leap to see the relationship between structural skeletons, supportive braces / prosthetics, and protective armor, right? But what is it about these hard bodies that make them so repulsive, and yet enticing? The frailty and strength of the human form? Could it be related to our growing obsession with (corporate) transparency, coupled with a need for structure? It’s an idea, anyway.

See my post on Vamps for more on skeletons, sex, and death.