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'This Is It' movie showcases Michael Jackson's fashion comeback [Updated]

Mj-this-is-it At "Michael Jackson This Is It," moviegoers will not see the elaborate costumes created for the tour that never was, bedazzled with 4 million Swarovski crystals and lighted up using LED technology. Those are on display at the O2 Arena in London, where the tour had been scheduled to begin in July, and will go on to New York and Tokyo.

But what they will see, in addition to tough and tender moments that humanize the pop singer and one hell of a music and dance show, is an amazing array of designer outfits Jackson wore to rehearsals.

A black leather pagoda-sleeve jacket and a crystal-trimmed tuxedo designed by the likes of Christophe Decarnin for Balmain, Kris Van Assche for Dior Homme and Tom Ford speak to Jackson's renewed relevance in fashion circles, and the changing relationship between music and fashion.

Jackson became a style icon in the 1980s because of his individual, often theatrical styling choices for the stage -- the single sequined glove, the white socks, the fedora. But his recent comeback was engineered with the help of fashion designers, with Balmain's Decarnin recognizing the retro appeal of tennis-ball-shaped shoulders and over-the-top embroidery, and Jackson appearing in his designs.

We had been used to seeing Jackson show up for courtroom appearances in scrubs, surgical masks, arm bands and other kooky attire, some of it designed by his longtime L.A.-based costume designers, Michael Bush and Dennis Tompkins, who have a Michael mannequin in their Los Feliz studio.

Michael-jackson-rushka-bergman But his look changed with an introduction to fashion stylist Rushka Bergman, and it is her work that is mostly front and center in the film, because Jackson's everyday clothes end up as his de facto costumes.

A pint-sized powerhouse from Serbia who says things like "forever daaahling," Bergman first met Jackson when she styled him in Dior Homme for the October 2007 issue of Italian Vogue L'Uomo.

Some might say it was the beginning of his comeback when she put him in Hedi Slimane's slim-line suits, fashionable at the time with Mick Jagger, Beck, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand and nearly every other credible male rocker.

The morning of the film's premiere, Bergman pulled out snapshots of Jackson trying on clothes at his house, and called him her "supermodel" because he fit into anything, including women's clothes. She emphasized his sex appeal ("He's sooooooo sexxxy!"), which comes into focus in the film for the first time in a long time, despite Jackson's surgerized face.

"When he wears Balmain on-screen, you say, 'Wow!'," she said.

In the film, Jackson looks fabulous much of the time, save for a few unfortunate print shirts and patched sweat pants that could well be the influence of L.A. fashion impresario Christian Audigier, who had approached Jackson about collaborating on a line.

But more often, you notice sharp tailoring and light-reflecting color. In a Tom Ford tuxedo worn during dancer auditions, skinny orange Dior Homme jeans, a red leather Balmain motorcycle jacket with crystal studded shoulders worn during the "Thriller" rehearsal and a Balmain suede military jacket worn with Alessandro Dell'Acqua gold sequin pants, Jackson looks powerful and contemporary.

This-is-it-tour "Seeing the clothing Rushka had selected, you could see Michael's influence," said Travis Payne, assistant director and choreographer for the This Is It Tour.

In recent years, pop stars have turned to fashion designers for costumes with increasing regularity, with Kylie Minogue choosing Jean Paul Gaultier for her recent North American tour, and Beyonce enlisting Thierry Mugler.

Payne wanted to bring fashion relevance to Jackson's on-stage persona too, so he solicited sketches from several designers, including John Galliano and Alexander McQueen.

Ultimately, New York-based fashion and costume designer Zaldy was tapped. Having worked with the Scissor Sisters and Gwen Stefani, while producing his own clothing line, he bridged the worlds of music and fashion.

Jackson was to have 10 costumes by Zaldy and six by Bush and Tompkins. Bush also helped dress the dancers and singers, as did Jennifer Rade, a Hollywood stylist whose star client is Angelina Jolie. The tour costumes will be featured in a "This Is It" DVD.

"Zaldy is the new cool thing and working with him gave Michael credibility. But Michael Bush is near and dear to his heart. So I wanted them to collaborate," Payne said.

Bush's "Smooth Criminal" costume is a white, 1940s-inspired pinstripe suit. Zaldy's updated "Thriller" jacket is hand-embroidered to look like it has blood dripping from the shoulders.

 "That was probably the hardest piece to do because it was so iconic," Zaldy said.

But his "Billie Jean" costume was the piece de resistance, with a jacket, tuxedo pants, ankle socks and a single glove that would light up using remote control, thanks to new Lumalive LED textile technology rushed through development by Philips Research in the Netherlands.

Zaldy remembers, "In the fitting, when Michael tried it on, his mouth literally dropped and he said, 'It's everything I always wanted.'"

[Updated at 6:20 p.m.: An earlier version of this post misspelled Travis Payne's last name as Paine and said the DVD was scheduled to come out before Christmas. The release has been postponed until early 2010.]

[Updated at 9:30 a.m. October 30: An earlier version of this post misspelled the song title "Billie Jean" as "Billy Jean."]

-- Booth Moore


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Top photo: A scene from "This Is It." Credit: Kevin Mazur. Middle photo: Michael Jackson with Rushka Bergman. Credit: Rushka Bergman. Bottom photo: A sketch, middle, and costumes made for the Michael Jackson tour that never was. Credit: Zaldy

Comments () | Archives (17)

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Of course Michael would look good in anything he wore - he was so sexy. He did lose a bit too much weight though around the concert time but he still rocked. So sad to see the costumes hanging there - never to be worn by the one they were designed for. He would have looked so fantastic in all of them. RIP Michael.

you basically just said Michael Jackson was sexy! i love you for that!

I'm gonna need a cigarette.

I saw some of these wardrobes briefly shown in the movie. I hope these costumes (designed for MJ's This Is It concert series) will be included in MJ Memorabilia Show so his fans can get a look at them.

Is it too much to ask that they get the name of one of MJ's biggest hits correct? It's "Billie Jean."

I hate the pointy-shoulder Balmain jackets Rushka put on MJ, especially because they were women's jackets. I'm very offended that she would dress MJ in woman's clothes. MJ did not even believe in that, and he was very hurt by all the tabloid articles accusing him of being feminine and gay. By dressing MJ in women's clothes, I feel like they were just mocking him before they killed him. That's my opinion, and yes, I do believe it's that sinister.

Zaldy's designs are nothing compared to the genius of MJ's long-time designer, Michael Lee Bush, whose excellent designs are in a class by themselves, just like MJ. I can't believe this article puts down Michael Lee Bush and exalts Zaldy. I doubt if MJ would have chosen to wear even one of Zaldy's "designs" on the tour.

This article is garbage.

To me, seeing Michael Jackson, one of the most influential fashion icons of the 20th century, in Balmain is revolutionary and iconic.

Balmain is the most beloved Parisian fashion house on the moment and the house owes every bit of their success to Michael Jackson's encyclopedia of looks. Putting MJ in Balmain is extremely clever, forward thinking and revolutionary. MJ was an artist, with a master's understanding of art.

His stage presence was never overtly-masculine, instead Michael straddled lines of ambiguity that are hallmarks of many great Rock legends from David Bowie to Freddie Mercury. The Balmain jackets sculpted his lean frame while simultaneously drawing on his history and boldly pushing him into "today". Irrelevant gender tags are useless when the subject in question continues to produce iconic imagery. That is what Rock/Pop legends are made of.

What sense would it make to continue dressing Michael in the same literal copies and silhouettes from his past three decades? Update and innovation please.

Michael always went forwards, never backwards. VIVA RUSHKA!

Style Icon: Rushka Bergman FOREVER!


You wrote: "His stage presence was never overtly-masculine, instead Michael straddled lines of ambiguity that are hallmarks of many great Rock legends from David Bowie to Freddie Mercury."

I had to laugh out loud when I read that! LOL!!! Ask any woman if MJ's stage presence was "overtly-masculine" and they will tell you YES, YES, YES!!! MJ's stage presence was always overtly-masculine, haven't you ever seen him perform? He was ALL MAN, and NOBODY wants to see MJ dressed in women's clothes! And if you knew anything about MJ, you would know that he was offended by men who dressed up as women. Listen to the recent tapes where he talks to Rabbi Shmuleech about that.

How can Balmain jackets be an update when Balmain copied their jackets from the look that Michael Lee Bush designed for Michael Jackson? The regular-shouldered Balmain jackets look okay, but that pointy-shouldered jacket is pure munchkin-wear from OZ. It's horrendous on MJ.


barf bag please

What's with those pointy shoulder pads? And Michael never wore gold necklaces.
I've always considered Michael a fashion icon, everything he wore were sexy and elegant but this pointy pads did not do him justice.

You'd better believe it Terri - He was probably one of the most sexy men on earth. Anyone who thinks he was not 'masculine' on stage has never seen him perform. Don't let his soft spoken persona fool you, he is ALL MAN.
Just got back from watching This Is It and WOW! I had to stop myself having fantasies about him out of respect for him and his children but he is a dream boat. I say is because he will never be dead to me. He lives on in a better place than this.

Well, guess what Michael Jackson was wearing at his groundbreaking 1983 Motown performance where he debuted 'Billie Jean' and the Moonwalk ???

His MOTHER'S jacket. According to Janet, he loved anything sparkly, so he actually filched that black sequined number from his mama's closet. The rest is HIStory!

@ Polanox

Not to mention it is common fact that his biggest inspiration as a performer was Diana Ross.

Don't get me wrong, I love Michael Jackson and his legacy but he definitely straddled lines of gender association.

Anyway, he hasn't looked hotter recently than in the black leather balmain jacket in the film during the "Human Nature" backstage scene. ROCKSTAR.

I'm willing to say that MJ was a fan of Diana Ross, but she was not a great influence on him as a performer. That would be James Brown and Jackie Wilson. He's said this himself.

I love the pointy shouldered Balmain jackets. It was so cool when MJ got the cover of Luomo Vogue a few years ago.

I would also like to remind people that Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and even Elton John came AFTER Michael Jackson. In fact MJ gave Elton John his break by having him as the opening act (per MJ's insistance when he first heard John) for the Jackson Five UK tour in 70/71. It's the other way around. Bowie and Mercury were MJ fans before they became influential.

I am a huge fan of michael jackson and i am still sad that he is gone but he will not be forgotton

He was sooo sexy!! I miss him :( That crystal incrusted costume would of looked amazing! No, he definately needed more meat on him. And those shoulder pads..just not him at all..don't like it.


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