To celebrate the opening of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, we’re compiling some of our favourite moments from the designer’s career with daily posts leading up to the June 17 opening. Today’s post, Madonna’s infamous cone bra.
Few designer-celebrity partnerships have created a mark so indelible as the one that began the more than 20-year friendship between Madonna and Jean Paul Gaultier. The bras and corsets with conical cups worn by the singer during performances for her 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour have become synonymous with both their wearer and their maker.
The bra entered the public consciousness when Madonna stepped on stage for “Express Yourself”, the show’s opening number, pink cones showing themselves beneath a double-breasted suit. This was not the coyly sexy play of an ingenue, with a hint of lace peeking up above the lapel. The bra burst through purpose-built slits in the front of the jacket, garters swinging from the hem, echoing her slick, high ponytail. Even before Madonna removed the coat, we knew what was underneath.
Those cups have been called to mind a hundred times in the years since—including in Gaultier’s own work. See a picture of Katy Perry in a whipped-cream dispensing bikini or a bra worn over a sweater on a runway and those cones comes back to the top. One of the best references, however, came up just two years after Blonde Ambition at an amFAR fundraiser at the Hollywood Bowl. Gaultier and Madonna come out on runway, the singer in a pinstriped suit, a beret atop her Erotica-era curls. At the end of the runway, the jacket comes off and reveals a dress with suspenders in the shape of a triangle bra surrounding Madonna’s bare breasts. More revealing, perhaps, than its predecessor, but not quite as compelling.