Photo by SGranitz/WireImage.

7 of björk's most iconic outfits

Her swan dress from the Oscars wasn't even her most daring look.

by Brittany Natale
17 September 2019, 12:00pm

Photo by SGranitz/WireImage.

Ever since the 1993 release of her first album, aptly named Debut, Björk has been constructing her own fantastical reality—complete with genre-defying music and out-of-this-world costumes. From her unforgettable swan dress to her crystal-covered face masks, the ethereal Icelandic singer does the quirky and avant-garde like no other. Whether on the stage or the red carpet, Björk has proven time and time again that she in a category all her own.

i-D takes a look back at some of her most iconic style moments.

James Merry headdress
For years Björk has been collaborating with British hand embroidery artist James Merry to help design her elaborate headdresses. The two were introduced by mutual friends in 2009 and since then have worked together on countless projects including Björk’s virtual reality exhibition and her video for “The Gate.” In addition to Björk, Merry has also created alongside Planned Parenthood, Opening Ceremony, Gucci, and the V&A Museum in London.

Custom Gucci for “The Gate
Designed by Alessandro Michele himself, Björk’s custom Gucci gown for her single ”The Gate” (from her 2017 album, Utopia, co-produced by Arca) took nearly 900 hours to create. Made from layers of pleated iridescent PVC plastic material and lurex organza, the gown acted as a larger-than-life reflective light prism. Not only did Michele design these pieces for the single, but he also acted as the creative director for its accompanying video as well, one which shows the Icelandic singer as a fantastical flute-playing creature. The dress was later included in the inaugural exhibition at Gucci Garden, the Italian fashion house’s concept store in Florence, Italy.

“Oceania” at the 2004 Olympics Opening Ceremony
For the 2004 Olympics Opening Ceremony in Athens Björk wore a billowing cerulean, cyan, and powder blue gown made of over 600 feet of material. The singer worked with art director Dimitris Papaioannou to create her performance program, one which featured a song titled “Oceania” made with poet Sigurjon Birgir Sigurdsson specifically for the event, and various dancers dressed as mythical Greek gods and creatures. Björk later explained that she wanted to represent the ocean and its unifying power and symbolically “flood” the stadium with her presence. The performance made for an otherworldly experience.

Photo by SGranitz/WireImage

The swan dress
For the 2001 Academy Awards Björk wore what may be considered one of the most talked about red carpet looks of all time — the famous swan dress. Created by Macedonian designer Marjan Pejoski, the dress featured a giant swan wrapped around the singer’s neck. It was so influential that it later inspired Valentino’s Spring 2014 Couture collection and was even photographed by photography duo Inez & Vinoodh. Some believe that the design of the dress may have been inspired by the famous Annie Leibovitz photo of Leonardo DiCaprio holding a swan that was published in a 1997 issue of Vanity Fair. The dress is now on view as part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Camp fashion exhibit.

Airmail packaging outfit for Post
Björk is pictured on the cover of her album, Post, in a suit jacket made entirely out of airmail packaging designed by boundary-pushing Turkish fashion designer Hussein Chalayan. The material used to construct the garment is Tyvek, which Chalayan first discovered while still a student at Central Saint Martins. Tyvek is a material made of high-density polyethylene fibers and is known for its great strength and durability, making it the perfect candidate for an avant-garde performance garment. A copy of the dress is now part of the V&A Museum collection in London.

McQueen Kimono
Björk joined forces with fellow legendary creatives, designer Alexander McQueen and photographer Nick Knight, to create the imagery for her third studio album, Homogenic. She was inspired to tap McQueen and Knight after seeing Knight’s image of model Devon Aoki in a 1997 issue of Visionaire dressed in a silk funnel neck dress with a safety pin closing a wound on her forehead. Featuring a silk kimono, neck rings inspired by the Maasai people, a European manicure, and hair reminiscent of Native American tribes, Björk wanted the vision to comment on the many different cultures and people that have greatly influenced her work. In addition to the imagery for the album, McQueen also went on to art direct the video for one of the album’s singles, “Alarm Call."

The runway for Jean Paul Gaultier
In 1994 Björk make a rare runway appearance when she modeled for Jean Paul Gaultier’s winter collection, one that drew inspiration from all corners of the globe and featured bold animal prints, intricate detailing, and layered, contrasting fabrics. Walking alongside names such as Kate Moss, Rossy De Palma, Naomi Campbell, and Laetitia Casta, the Icelandic singer wore a fur-trimmed winter suit with silk brocade trousers. This, however, was not the only time the French designer and Björk have crossed paths — Gaultier also presented the songstress with the award for International Female at the 1994 BRIT Awards.

Alexander McQueen
Jean Paul Gaultier