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Gleaning Fashion Inspiration from the David Bailey Exhibition by Alex Zagalsky

By Alex Zagalsky on Feb 14 2014

About a year ago, whilst walking through Regent's Park with my partner and children, we spotted David Bailey with his dogs. We spent the next five minutes trying to pluck up the courage to ask him to take our picture, but we were too starstruck. I'll never know what our Bailey family portrait would have looked like or if indeed he would have accepted the request, given it was pouring with rain and my kids were free-styling on their neon scooters. But if the pictures at his
new retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery are anything to go by (and I'm merely talking about the blown-up portraits he took on a smartphone here), it would have been pretty awesome.

Bailey's Stardust is a vast exhibition and it showcases seminal works from his 50-year career. It's also a walk through time: he was there with the Rolling Stones at the height of their fame, he got Andy Warhol and Salvator Dali together for a surrealist playdate, he made sure that every mover and shaker of the 1960s and 70s (and indeed beyond) sat for him. Every image tells a thousand stories but more than this, Bailey was instrumental in creating the cult of celebrity.

As you walk around this exhibition, it's hard not to feel nostalgic - especially if you are over 30 like me. You'll remember how much you worshipped Johnny Depp when he was in Cry Baby (okay, I still carry a torch for him despite his weird obsession with waistcoats) and how you wish you could have been more appreciative of your mum's crimped hair in the 80s, because young Marie Helvin looked so damn cool with that do back then.

David Bailey has been shooting for Vogue since the 1960s so there are also some amazing editorial shots to ogle at: Kate Moss with tousled, lioness-like mane greets you as you enter the exhibition. You also realise just how much fashion comes around again, and how instrumental many of these iconic images have been in shaping the sartorial styles of today: Mick Jagger and his fur-hooded parka jacket, Michael Cane and his geeky glasses, Jerry Hall in stilettos and red lipstick everywhere (including the beach!), George Michael with rolled up biker jacket sleeves, Tina Turner in her skimpy sparkly dresses. Many have filtered down to me in some shape or another - and some sadly haven't. I know it's more about the beauty of the image and David Bailey's genius ability to translate personality through portraiture, but walking around, I can guarantee you'll feel a renewed sense of excitement about fashion. I'm reaching for my hair crimper.

By Alex Zagalsky

Alex Zagalsky is a web editor with over 15 years experience in online publishing with a repertoire that has embraced fashion, flirted with travel and even had a fling with male grooming. Having edited the web version of cult teen publication, Sugar, Alex has interviewed her fair share of celebrities, from Enrique Iglesias (who let her raid his hotel minibar!) to Nicholas Cage, grumpy about having to dye his hair aubergine for a movie (not a good colour on anyone). She now edits a London-based website called Byoutifulyou.com and is in the process of launching a new online destination for culture vultures on a budget.