Costume and Setting
Notes on the Style of Madonna’s Vogue
*This article has a different focus to other article: About Madonna’s Vogue, Setting and Costume.
I was hoping to develop an article about the Vogue dance, also known as the Performance dance which is a 20s dance. However I heard that Madonna does a variation of this dance in her video for Vogue. This article revolves around Madonna’s Vogue music video.
The great feather fan lifts at the start of Madonna’s Vogue. We are introduced to its world. There is Madonna’s blonde hair, the pointed white collars of the men. There is Madonna’s striking lacy see-through blouse. See too the costume that Madonna chooses in the final scenes. The trousers / pants that she wears has slight flair, slightly cropped too. And of course the pointy hat of her dance companion has to be noticed.
In Vogue there are many different settings or you could say there are many different costume settings The general designs for the video are interesting. Madonna chooses the tailored look, and Vogue happens in a sophisticated elegant setting so this choice can be understood.
There is also an element of Art Deco in the interior design. And the Art Deco-like decoration isn’t just decoration ; it also sets up the mood of the video, the mood of the setting. Or maybe in Madonna’s Vogue, the mood is ‘moodless’. For Art Deco isn’t a mood. It’s a form of Art and it’s interesting that you can connect it to a mood but maybe it is wrong to do this. However Madonna’s Vogue can remind you of some pictures of Lempicka and the people in it and Lempicka’s pictures are a variation of Art Deco.
Take a picture of Lempicka. . and choose a woman. . and then choose the performers. . and choose then how they integrate and go together. . . likewise choose the models in Vogue. . who are they. . tall, slender men. . . with chiselled look. And then there are the women. In Vogue, a woman is the leader and that is Madonna, a kind of queen. . or just a sort of Madame dressed up as a Monsieur but either way she is the leader!
Madonna’s Vogue is a performance. The stage is opened when the feather fan lifts. The feather fan rises upwards, maybe in a slight swirling clockwise movement. And then there is the space inside. How do you describe Vogue. In some way it is about fur and nakedness ; fur is the ultimate covering for the body and then there is the elegant tailored look of the men as well as the women. And then there is the nakedness apparent in the see-through blouse of Madonna as well as the general eroticism of the video performance.
At the beginning the models stand like statues and they sweep their bodies with their hands. Hand movement is a form of dance as well as the movements of the leg and body in general. The models stand still like actors, posers; they are people posing like actors; so a sense of sophistication is apparent. Note what the performance entails. The performance is to stand and dance like a statue and more importantly to move as a statue and then to be still again.
See the shadow/color and other areas of fashion in the video performance. Other elements like the line of the sleeve for both men and women are important ; The neck lines too and their collars for the men. The silhouette, that tailored clothing produces, affects the whole look and feel of the video performance. Remember too the two women back to back in slight profile and see too the performer swirling in his chair almost in a quarter motion,
The effect produced is not decadence. Maybe it is a definition of decadence. That is how you can approach the music video; You can approach Madonna’s Vogue as a definition of decadence but I think this is wrong. There is nothing at all decadent about this video performance and the mood in it.
The first thirty to thirty-six seconds of the video are about pose and also the location and setting. Setting can also refer to costume setting as well as interior setting. Then there is Madonna’s open seduction of the viewer ; and in 1 minute 16, there is a Madonna dance. She is a power-woman type, an image popular in the 80s and early 90s. Then there is a pit dance. The first real Performance-type dance happens in a kind of pit. Then in one minute 37, Madonna sleeks to the window. This scene shows us again the setting or backdrop of the video. It is like a Hollywood mansion of the 20s and 30s.
Vogue is about the setting. At one minute 30-37 Madonna dances and then walks away to the window, to stand like the peroxide blonde confident goddess she is. . It is a deep night outside and a deep setting inside ; something turbulent and melodramatic where the setting outside mirrors the mood inside and in Vogue, there is certainly a mood which aims to permeate the whole setting.
The pose is at the core of the whole music video, and there is more to it than just striking a pose. And that is choreography. . . choreographing the pose. When the video comes to its complete development at about four minutes 20, there is the image of Madonna with tossed hair. The dance feels more like a dance in a New York club. Still the pose is at the core of the video. And the backdrop, the setting, the costuming, it's all black and white. It's all grainy, black, white. One can notice the sleek suits. . . and the sleek looks.
And then there is Madonna at two minutes thirty-three in a Hollywood- starlet mood. There is a heavier dance sequence after this. The final sequence of looks or photos , Madonna in bath, in corset, show us how the video performance has developed from the early poses into a sophisticated music video performance.
You can see in Vogue that the Performance dance too is about poise in the face. It is also about hands crossing the face and the body ; A full performance dance of the body. The costuming which concentrates mainly on white and black colors is ideal for this type of performance. In one scene, one man wears a white suit while the other two men wear black suits. See also in the early stage of the video at about 47 seconds, Madonna, the recognised main performer, sits, not directly facing the outside or the camera. Poise, position are important. The body and face are in half profile. Is this a pose? It is one of the poses in the music video.
In designing a setting for Vogue, it is important also to materialise the ‘erotic’ or the ‘hollywood sophistication in the 20s and 30s’. The setting and costuming and overall design development in Vogue and other videos is like a hidden language.