PopMatters: You’ve made some bold fashion statements over the years, both in your album artwork and live. Do you have any favorite fashion moments?
Tori Amos: Karen Binns has been styling me for 20 years. She’s an icon herself. She’s been shot by Testino and painted by Basquiat. She’s mixed-race with slight Jean Harlow hair. So she’s black with white hair. And she’s from Brooklyn. She’s been coming up with all the looks over the years.
The only look she did not come up with, and it’s my biggest fashion disaster—and this is why Husband has nothing to say about fashion anymore. Before we did the arenas in 1998, we were doing small clubs and Husband said to me, “Why don’t you just wear jeans and a tee shirt? Why not? You’re in clubs.” I kind of went, “Yeah, okay.” So don’t ever listen to your new husband, girls, unless he’s a closeted homosexual because straight guys and fashion—sometimes, but usually not. Karen saw something about it and she tracked me down and gave me an earful. She said, “You are gonna regret this for the rest of your life, child.” And she was right. And I do! I absolutely do. So that was the worst. But then she made these glamorous aprons for the tour and they were a lot of fun. What tour did you like?
PopMatters: The aprons, of course. I liked what was going on with Scarlet’s Walk, but, of course, hands down, it was American Doll Posse, between the jumpsuits and the outfit changes for all the girls. …
Tori Amos: Hands down!
PopMatters: Lady Gaga, if you noticed, was wearing something quite similar to those jumpsuits shortly after. Same designer.
Tori Amos: Well, I’m telling Karen about that! Karen is quick, and she’s always saying, “Everyone’s always knocking me off!” She’s watched every movie that’s ever been made, and she goes back to the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s. You know Paris Is Burning? She was there. She’s 50-something, so her references are sharp, and she’s quick.
One of those jumpsuits made it onto the Gold Dust cover, with a cape over it. Those jumpsuits were shi-shi, but Karen figured it out. So what happens is, she tells the designer for the stage clothes, “This is what we’re doing.” For the orchestral shows, we have an intermission, so Tash has demanded there be a costume change. Her Aunt Karen is happy about that. Tash said, “Mum, if you don’t have a costume change than all anyone is going to think is that you need to take a wee!”
Without further ado, PopMatters brings you some of our favorite Tori Amos style moments:
American Doll Posse Tour
Playing five different women night after night meant, of course, five different wardrobes. Tori’s looks ran the gamut on this tour, from mini cocktail dresses with shimmering leggings, to rubber tights and oversized belts, to oversized billowing blouses that mirrored the smoke from the faux (?) joints she smoked onstage. The most talked-about costume staple? The baggy, sequined jumpsuits that made Amos glitter like a disco ball on stage, particularly the cheeky American flag patterned one Tori busted out for special occasions (aka, the red states).—JV
Plugged Tour—Sparkly Aprons
Appropriate attire for her first arena tour, Amos sparkled so brightly in a series of “aprons” made by stylist Karen Binns that even the folks in the nosebleeds could spot their goddess in action. Especially prudent given the alchemy she was cooking up on stage.—JV
Comic-Con Super Hero
Knowing Tori’s historical affinity for sleek couture, it should come as no surprise to anyone that she wore this slick, outrageous leather look with a fiery corona of orange hair to Comic Con in 2008. This look was the perfect marriage of Tori’s love of high fashion geek-goddess appeal and witty, wicked sense of humor about the whole—let’s face it—sort of nerdy event. Let’s just say the look suits the milieu to a … T.—MM
Yes, the eyeliner is extreme. Yes, the shapes are a bit unconventional. Sure, the raspberry lip gloss borders on aggressive. No, she isn’t wearing jeans and t-shirts any longer, but Tori is, yet again, toying with audience expectations and perceptions by shifting her style with each successive album and tour, and in this video. As always, she’s challenging herself aesthetically as much as she does musically.—MM
“Jackie’s Strength” Video
“Jackie’s Strength” is a simple, black and white video where Tori rides in the back of a limo singing about getting lost on her wedding day. Without her piano, Tori is free to give a physically interpretive performance of the song that feels like a cross between the emotional gut punch of the British Kitchen Sink dramas of the ‘60s and Peter Bogdanovich’s small town heartburn in The Last Picture Show (1972). Tori tells this story with her face, and with the help of a nimbus-like veil and a simple white dress—both of which put further emphasis on her delivery. An unforgettably glamorous, and classy, moment in Tori’s style history.—MM
Little Earthquakes Tour
No, you aren’t mistaken. That is a pair of jeans over a bathing suit. Hilarious, economical, and probably pretty darn comfortable, it’s said that this look—and, okay, maybe her talent too—is what called Amos to Karen Binns’ attention and inspired her to become Tori’s defacto fashion fairy godmother.—JV
Kevyn Aucoin: Making Faces and Face Forward
From Mary Queen of Scots, to a Native American woman called Ton’ingina, to bringing to life the fictional cast of female characters that inhabited the world of Strange Little Girls, to simply pulling her hair fiery locks into a side ponytail with a white ribbon, Kevyn Aucoin painted Amos like a canvas, embellishing her natural beauty with a meticulous palette.—JV
Vanity Fair: The Tempest (pregnancy photograph)
With this stunning two-page photo in Vanity Fair Tori announced to the world not only the fact she was pregnant, but had also, since the photo was taken, given birth to her daughter Nathashya. This was a kind of intimacy that Tori had not yet shown her audience, galaxies removed from the wailing woman at the harpsichord, yet this photo was somehow, in its simple beauty, even more emotionally—and physically—revealing.—MM
Viktor and Rolf
Tori played a specially-composed version of “Song of Solomon” onstage as positively Elizabethan models float past in the designers’ baroque-yet-sharp pieces that mirror her musical sensibilities almost too perfectly: extreme ruffles, pleats, layers, and the hottest hot pink satin you’ve ever seen in your life. When Tori does high fashion, she doesn’t play around.—MM
Tori included intimate, personal photographs of her wedding day in the tour program for the 1998 Plugged tour. A rare look at Tori outside of her public and on-stage personas, she was styled by both Karen Binns and Kevin Aucoin in an ice blue gown, its intricately floral-patterned cape, subtly contrasting the foggy English countryside where she marched into matrimony behind Gregorian monks with torches lighting the way.—JV