Costume Party #1, Life on Stage–This is Spinal Tap

IMG_9798This is Spinal Tap

USA,1984

Directed by Rob Reiner

Starring Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Rob Reiner

Costume styled by Renee Johnston

Available to stream on Netflix


This is Spinal Tap is the most over-the-top movie about rock n roll ever made, and that’s what makes it so dead-on. Just ask real rockstars. After viewing the movie, U2 guitarist The Edge said, “I didn’t laugh, I wept. It was so close to the truth.” Ozzy Osbourne didn’t laugh either, because he thought it was real! Living the life of a rock god, he had probably seen similar things in real life. That’s what makes this movie so funny. Satire is always better when it’s closer to the truth. To rockstars like Ozzy and The Edge, it probably seems feasible to release an album entitled “Smell the Glove”. And check out the following lyrics from the Spinal Tap song “Big Bottom”. To you they may seem unthinkable, but in the world of sex, drugs, and rock n roll no one would bat an eye:IMG_9813

The bigger the cushion, the sweeter the pushin’

That’s what I said

The looser the waistband, the deeper the quicksand

Or so I have read

My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo

I like to sink her with my pink torpedo

Big bottom, big bottom

Talk about bum cakes, my girl’s got ’em

Big bottom, drive me out of my mind

How could I leave this behind?

I met her on Monday, it was my lucky fun day

You know what I mean

I love her each weekday, each velvety cheekday

You know what I mean

My love gun’s loaded and she’s in my sights

Big game is waiting there inside her tights

Big bottom, big bottom

Talk about mudflaps, my girl’s got ’em

Big bottom, drive me out of my mind

How could I leave this behind?

You think this song is crazy? Watch the movie. The absurdity contained in these lyrics is just a drop in the bucket of the most outrageous 80 minutes you’ll ever witness. The band members are the some of the wildest, dumbest, most narcissistic characters you’ll ever see. So really, they’re just like rockstars. Not only do they talk and act like rockstars–they dress like them too, decked out in leather, animal print, tight pants, chokers, you name it. The costumes are extravagant and hyperbolic, just as they must be. Think about musicians like Black Sabbath, KISS, Def Leppard, and Lady Gaga. Now package them up into a single band and you’re looking at something like Spinal Tap.

Technically there was no costume designer for this film, but a costume stylist. Basically that means the costumes were not created for the movie, only chosen or hunted down. My best guess is that costume stylist Renee Johnston spent a lot of time at thrift stores and sex shops. It’s also quite possible that the actors looked through their own closets for old Halloween costumes or outfits they had worn to rock concerts. I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the costumes work perfectly with the eccentricity of the characters and the freakish nature of their story.


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