THE MOMENT: Madonna’s Gaultier cone bra

For this weekly column, writer Mishal Cazmi highlights an iconic fashion piece, film, or collaboration and explores its influence on style and pop culture. Above, Madonna shows her blonde ambition in the cone bra designed by Jean Paul Gaultier.

Last season, models walked the runway wearing underwear as outerwear. But long before Marc Jacobs and Christian Dior embraced the trend, there was Jean Paul Gaultier, the mastermind behind Madonna’s infamous cone-shaped bra. The over-underthing made its presence known around the world in 1990 when Madonna embarked on her Blonde Ambition tour. And before Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood’s models traipsed down the runway in bras fashioned atop their dresses back in 1981.

When Gaultier made the iconic bra for Madonna, he looked to the popular bullet bra of the fifties for inspiration. The brazen brassiere was as in-your-face as the superstar’s Blonde Ambition tour, which stirred up controversy because it appropriated religious iconography and explored themes of sexuality.

The bra is currently enjoying a revival thanks to a few stratospheric pop stars. Enter Lady Gaga in the mostly monochromatic video for “Alejandro” where she sports two machine guns on her bra (Gaga brandishes the same weapons on the cover of Rolling Stone). Followed by Katy Perry, who in a way the antithesis of Lady Gaga, is in a frothy, but no less racy version of the bra, wearing a whipped cream wielding bikini. In between, there’s Kylie Minogue who wore a Gaultier-designed cone bra in a photoshoot for her album, Aphrodite and Rihanna who’s worn similarly inspired get-ups on stage. A stone’s throw away from these pop acts is Glee, which paid tribute to Madge in an episode in which Jane Lynch sported the iconic bra in all its cheeky glory.

Gaultier hasn’t forgotten the influence of his cone-shaped bra. In his Spring 2010 collection (aptly named “The G Spot”), the “astronaut of corsetry” revisited the past by once again designing cheeky little underthings.

More recently, he designed a capsule collection for La Perla (below), including a corset, bodysuit and bras inspired by Madonna’s cone bra, which will be in stores this November.

As for the original bra Madonna sported? It sold for £14,100 (around $20,000) in a 2001 pop memorabilia auction.

Below, the far-reaching (often surreal) influence of the cone bra, starting with Lady Gaga.

Cameron Diaz pays tribute to the piece in V, 2009.

Cute or creepy?

A vintage ad for the bullet bra, popular in the 1950s and an inspiration for Gaultier.

Further reading:

Jean Paul Gaultier by Colin McDowell

Madonna: The Illustrated Biography by Marie Clayton

Further viewing:

Express Yourself (live from 1985!)

Click here to read more of The Moment: stories on YSL & Catherine Deneuve, the iconic Hermès scarf and Schiaparelli’s Skeleton Dress.

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