If Nabokov's Lolita, Chiquita Banana and Siouxsie Sioux had a baby, that raven-haired infant would emerge as Katy Perry, vintage onesie and all.
Stylewise, the "I Kissed a Girl" warbler is kind of a kook. Whereas her contemporaries play it safe in skinny jeans, huge "It" bags, Louboutins and giant sunglasses, Katy has hit red carpets in tiny pastel sunsuits, a "Victor/Victoria"-inspired getup that was half tuxedo, half poufy prom dress, and a bedazzled, fruit-encrusted mini-dress complete with watermelon-shaped bra cups, which she wore to perform at the Grammys. She mixes 1940s pinup cues with over-the-top '80s-influenced furbelows like a time-warping Cyndi Lauper.
"I like to look like a history book," Perry told the Los Angeles Times. "I can look 1940s, I can look 1970s hippie-chic, or sometimes I'll pull that '80s Brooklyn hip-hop kid with the door-knocker earrings."
Say what you will about her vocal capabilities and such songs as "UR So Gay," but it's difficult to deny that Perry is fashionably fearless, concocting ensembles that are part vintage, part glitter explosion and a lot of fun to watch. It's a little bit new wave, a lot vintage, and Perry's tongue is always firmly planted in her cheek. She rarely wears black and appears to find conventional style rules such as "no parasols if you're not Bjork," totally boring.
Of course, her wardrobe of whimsical accessories and rainbow-hued pencil skirts would be more difficult to pull off if Perry weren't so pretty. That flawless skin and shiny dark hair, not to mention her huge blue eyes, get her mistaken for actress Zooey Deschanel and land her ad spots for makeup brand Too Faced, among others.
Perry finds her fashion inspiration in a variety of places, some of them a little off-kilter. In one particularly amusing post on her blog (www.katyperryblog.com), Perry enthuses over the style of teeny-tiny pageant queens on the WE channel's "Little Miss Perfect," writing, "Even though I am 24, I still wear those same outfits and still have my hair done like that. I am THEM."
Perry also has a fruit fixation. At her concert Tuesday at First Avenue, the stage will be decorated with giant inflatable produce. "It started with my obsession of the 1940s and cherry charm bracelets and strawberry and cherry pattern baskets on women's dresses," she explained. Then, "I went to Japan and I'd see dancing bananas with faces on them. So I decided to take it to a whole 'nother level. It's fun, it's kitsch, it's cute. Some of it is phallic. Some of it is playful."
Perry's also got her brightly manicured finger on the fashion pulse and has played muse to such designers as Betsey Johnson, Jeremy Scott, jewelry designer Tarina Tarantino and even Chanel, whose head honcho, Karl Lagerfeld, gave her a black mini-dress, to her delight.
Of course, adventurers like Perry occasionally get slayed in the press for those wacky ensembles, like a zebra-printed pantsuit paired with bright purple pumps that didn't do her any favors. However you interpret her look, from lovable oddball to pinup princess to worst-dressed woman alive, Katy Perry is a case study in having fun with fashion.
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Jon Bream contributed to this story.