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The Ziggy Stardust
Costume Gallery

David Bowie and Kansai Yamamoto

1973 - 1974

Kansai Yamamoto

Born in Yokohama in 1944, Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto was only 27 when he held his first international fashion show in London in 1971. The Japanese division of RCA records made MainMan aware of Yamamoto's work and Bowie purchased the "woodlands animal costume" from Kansai's London boutique - which he wore at the Rainbow Concert in August 1972 and which was later remade by Natasha Korniloff. Bowie subsequently viewed a video of a rock-fashion show that Kansai had staged in Japan the previous year and reportedly loved the costumes which were a combination of modern sci-fi and classical Kabuki theatre. Kansai and Bowie met in New York where Kansai gifted Bowie two costumes during the 2nd US Tour.

Kansai was then commissioned to create nine more costumes based on traditional Japanese Noh dramas for Bowie to pick up in Tokyo in April 1973. These were the flamboyant androgynous Ziggy Stardust costumes Bowie wore on the 3rd UK tour in 1973. Kansai has been a driving force in fashion design ever since and is now a major personality in Japan.

"He has an unusual face, don't you think?  He's neither man nor woman.  If you see what I mean; which suited me as a designer because most of my clothes are for either sex.  I love his music and obviously that has influenced my designs but most of all there's this aura of fantasy that surrounds him.   He has flair." - Kansai Yamamoto (June 1973)

David Bowie and Kansai Yamamoto

"Space-samurai" costume made out of shiny black, red, and blue material, which is quilted, stuffed and lined with rows of black sequins. It has a short black turtleneck, and the long-sleeve arms have a blue section in the middle surrounded by black. Silver snaps run from the tops of both sleeves to the cuffs. A thick red stripe runs down the middle of the chest, then splits off to each leg diagonally. The color along the samurai-cut legs alternates black, red, blue and black. The legs flare widely at the bottom.


"Rites of Spring" (also called "Spring Rain") costume with tear-away red side panel and platform shoes (1973). Currently exhibited at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

"Now of course he's an international designer, but he was very experimental at that time - his stuff was way off the board.   So the very first things were influenced by him, and then I got to know him, and he made all the stuff you really know - the suits, the pull-apart stuff, all those things.   He said, "Oh, this band are weird - tee-hee-hee - they wear my clothes" - Bowie (1987)

Short, white satin kimono with red satin lining, long sleeves and short quilted turtleneck. On the front and back of the shirt are paintings of trees with white birds perched among the branches. Pink flowers, adorned with beads and sequins, hang from the trees. Black Chinese characters decorate the front and back of the shirt, and silver buttons line the sides. The long, flowing cape, also with red satin lining and silver buttons down both sides starting from the collar down, and large black and red Chinese lettering on the back of the cape. A white scarf ties around the collar of the kimono. White hot pants, topped off with white knee-high satin boots.

What do the letters on the cape mean? - Well, folklore has it that Bowie (in 1999) jokingly said that it meant "Get your potatoes here". However, each of the Chinese letters (Chinese letters were utilized in the Japanese language when Japan didn't have letters in ancient times) actually means (from upper to lower): "exit" or "out", "fire", "breath out" or "puke", "wild" or "riot", "force". But as words they mean nothing!!! The letters should be pronounced (again upper to lower); "De" "Vi" (vi of video) "To" (to of tomato) "Bow" "I" and so they really read "David Bowie"! or alternately can be read as: "The man who vomits and fires out provocative words threatening violently"....

 Click for larger images and costume information



"Palm tree" platform shoes (1973)


Tasseled silver costume worn at Earls Court (May 1973).

Bowie backstage (May 1973)

David Bowie - 1973

"This, again, is all Freddie Burretti stuff. '73-ish.  These were my day clothes ha ha ha! My offstage stuff!! I look rather reflective. Kind of, Where are we going? It was madness by then.  We were touring frantically.  We toured all of 1972.  And I had one month off in '73.  I must have been pretty near the edge.  This was during our second American tour.  I folded up the Spiders in July, 73'.  I was very exhausted." - David Bowie (1993) responds to this photo shown to him by Q Magazine in "David Bowie: This is Your Life" feature.

Bowie stripped down to only a red sequined jockstrap in Japan above (April 1973) and later did the same in Glasgow. 
He explained that this was in the tradition of Japanese sumo wrestlers.

Multi-colored knitted body sock/suit made of metallic yarn in sections of pink, red, and blue geometric patterns on black or white. It has one long sleeve and one pants leg on opposite sides with only a cutout for the other arm and the other leg. The long sleeve has diagonal green and white stripes, and donut-like stuffed bangles to go with it in green, red, yellow and blue made from the same metallic knit fabric. With turquoise feather boa and large padded wrist bangles.

"How-to make a Ziggy Stardust leotard" from Rock Scene Magazine (August 1974).

DAVID BOWIE wore this black and white striped jacket during his 1973 Ziggy Stardust period. The stripes run horizontally across the body, while the stripes on the giant lapels form sort of a diamond pattern. Black velvet lines the neck and white shiny crepe material is woven into the stripes. A big white button fastens the waist-length jacket. At the waist, to each side, two vertical pleats are sewn in for a custom fit. This piece of rock music history is currently displayed at Hard Rock Cafe Orlando along with a photograph of Bowie wearing the jacket with Peter Cooke and Dudley moore. Other Hard Rock Cafes that have David Bowie items on display include Cabo San Lucas in Mexico which have David's blouse and hat from Space Oddity (1972)

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---This page last modified: 10 Dec 2018---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)