7 of Debbie Harry’s most iconic outfits
From razor blades to sequins, the Blondie frontwoman is the queen of punk rock fashion.
In her new memoir, Face It, Debbie Harry pulls back the curtain and allows the reader to take a deep dive into her world — the good times, the bad times, the incredible times; and there were many. The inimitable rock icon and lead singer of Blondie has toured with David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and the Ramones, attended Woodstock, acted in over 30 films (one of them being John Waters’ camp classic Hairspray), performed on Broadway alongside Andy Kaufman, and collaborated with fellow musician Nile Rodgers. Harry’s influence on pop culture over the years has been seismic and widespread like a shock wave.
Her impact is not just felt in music and entertainment, but also in art, activism, and, of course, fashion. Harry’s style has been largely DIY, part vintage glamour (she cites Marilyn Monroe and the New York Dolls as sources of inspiration), and 100% punk, often acting as an extension of her onstage persona.
i-D takes a look at some of Harry’s most iconic style moments and the interesting stories behind them.
Razor blade Dress by Michael Schmidt
Harry has always utilized unexpected, everyday materials — pillowcases, packing tape, safety pins — to create pieces that are as unique as she is. In 1999, she wore a razor blade dress to the Q Awards, commenting after the show to The Guardian that “fashion should always be a little dangerous.” The gown, which consisted of 3,000 blunted double-edged razor blades, was designed by NYC-based jewelry and clothing designer, Michael Schmidt. The two had met in the 70s at a Blondie concert, with Schmidt and Harry becoming roommates later on in the early-90s. The memorable dress, which was included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Rock Style” exhibit, was just one of the many creations he made for women in music. Besides Harry, he has also designed for Cher, Dolly Parton, and Tina Turner.
Zebra Minidress in Creem Magazine
Over the years, Harry’s iconic looks have not only been captured by photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Bob Gruen, Lynn Goldsmith, and Andy Warhol, but also by her bandmate and longtime partner Chris Stein. The two would often set up makeshift studios and take candid shots at home or out on the road. One of the most famous photographs the pair worked on is the image of Harry posing in front of a zebra-patterned wall wearing a matching zebra minidress. Harry writes in her memoir that the dress was not originally a piece of clothing at all, but a pillowcase their landlord, Benton, had found in the trash. Harry had later transformed into a dress and this photograph was famously printed in Creem magazine.
“Heart of Glass” Video
Harry often collaborated with Stephen Sprouse, whom she befriended when they lived in the same apartment building in the Bowery. Together they whipped up some of Harry’s most memorable looks including the outfit she wore for Blondie’s 1979 hit music video for “Heart of Glass.” The dress was made from prints of television pixels transposed onto asymmetrical pieces of fabric, so when Harry moved around the garment floated around her. Sprouse, who was an emerging designer in the 70s, also worked as a design assistant at Halston and would often put Harry in some of the fashion house’s iconic slip dresses.
2017 London Fashion Week
During London Fashion Week in 2017, Harry walked the runway for VIN + OMI. At one point, she was seen walking beside two models wearing hoodies emblazoned with the words “Stop Fucking the Planet.” This, however, was not the first time that Harry has expressed herself regarding important social, economical, and environmental issues. For instance, in the late-70s she famously stated her stance on nuclear weapons mid-song while performing “Heart of Glass” on Bret Sugarman’s “The Midnight Special,” launched a campaign for the bees in 2017, and has been a strong supporter of the LGBTQ+ community for decades.
Sunglasses and Bleached Hair
Black sunglasses and bleached blonde hair have become synonymous with Harry, who is a natural brunette. Though she first began dyeing her hair when she was 14 years old. In her memoir she writes that her hair has been a dozen or so colors throughout the years, but she was always drawn to platinum blonde which stems from her love of Marilyn Monroe and Hollywood stars. As for her glasses? The original oversized black pair she wore at the height of Blondie was sourced from a junk shop in downtown New York City.
An unexpected accolade of Blondie’s is their 80s song, “Rapture,” which was credited as the first #1 chart-topping song in the United States to feature rap vocals. The music video features a Harry rapping in a sequined black strapless top, black shorts, and a lace stole. The singer was known to discover many of her famous clothing items either at thrift shops or even on the curb. Good fashion and extraordinary achievements aside, the music video is also known for its cameos — if you look closely you can see Fab Five Freddy, graffiti artist Lee Quinones, and another famous New Yorker, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, appearing as a DJ. Harry and Basquiat were also friends off-camera. In fact, she and Stein bought “Self Portrait with Suzanne,” the first painting that Basquiat ever sold.
Saturday Night Live
On Valentine’s Day in 1981 Harry appeared on Saturday Night Live, to perform and act alongside some of the show’s stars. For a cover of Devo’s “Come Back Jonee,” she wore a sequined and beaded outfit that hovered the line between cowgirl and Victorian princess. This was not Harry’s first time acting in front of the camera — over the years she has been in dozens of television shows and films, including David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, John Waters’ Hairspray, and even Jim Henson’s The Muppets. She was also offered a part in the original Blade Runner movie directed by Sir Ridley Scott, but her record label would not allow it.