Noelle McCarthy: The road to personal style

By Noelle McCarthy

Each week broadcaster and writer Noelle McCarthy will share her thoughts on style.

Madonna wearing Gucci in 1995. Photo / AP Images
Madonna wearing Gucci in 1995. Photo / AP Images

The first outfit I ever really wanted was worn by Madonna and made by Tom Ford. I thought of it the other day, while I was mooning over Lorde on a magazine cover, in a dress by Adrian Hailwood. When the right clothes happen to the right people, the world tilts a little bit on its axis and part of the universe explodes. Maybe I'm overstating this, but the fact remains: none of us are getting over Ryan Gosling in velvet suiting any time soon.

So it is with Lorde tricked out in shimmering Hailwood, staring out from the cover of Billboard, regal and gilded as an Elizabethan Princess, with a hairstyle from Game of Thrones. I couldn't stop staring at her, and all I could see was Madonna in Gucci by Tom Ford.

It was a simple combination. Tight satin trousers in a shade of navy so deep, they came up 3D in the photos, and a satin shirt in Winsor Blue. The shirt was tucked into the low-slung pants and unbuttoned to show off her bra. Her belt was a stylised horse-bit; everything came from Ford's first collection for Gucci in 1995.

It was a sexy collection, famously, and everyone wanted a piece of it. The slinky, 70s-inspired velvets and satins Ford sent down the runway flew out of the shops and straight into the hands of millions of 90s femme fatales.

Madonna being the fatale-est of all the femmes, Ford's name was made when she wore head-to-toe Gucci to the MTV Awards that year. She went all-in on it of course, because she is Madonna: not only did she wear the look in its entirety, she paid her own respects to the equestrian roots of the label, with a luxurious, caramel-coloured high-top pony tail. Long before the dopey rapper, Madonna was rocking the the Gucci mane.

At 14, I was knock-kneed with longing. Rolling up my school skirt had been my idea of glamour up until then, and saving up for Rimmel foundation in a shade called oatmeal beige. "Concrete ashen" they may as well have called it. I put it on with a trowel, and I needed a chisel to get it off. I only wore it because my friends did, which was pretty much the rationale for most of my sartorial choices at the time. One look at Gucci Madonna and something changed, though. I was in love at first sight, and I couldn't have cared less what my friends thought.

I hesitate to recommend Madonna as a role-model for young women. She's as powerful as a woman can be in this world, but I always get the feeling that Madonna - like Margaret Thatcher - is not so much a feminist as an individualist to the marrow. She does things that are good for Madonna; the sisterhood can find its own way. But she put me right in the 90s, and started me on the road to personal style.

If Lorde can do that for this generation of 14-year-olds, then she may be worth some of the hype.

* Follow Noelle on Twitter here.


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