The Rules of Style by David Bowie: A Tribute

David Bowie, an artist who transcended all that it meant to be of this earth — has passed away.

He died of cancer at age 69 on Sunday, January 10, 2016, two days after his birthday and the release of his final album, Blackstar.

“Look up here,” his voice opens in the haunting track titled “Lazarus.”  “I’m in heaven.”

Bowie was always something other-worldly. A rock star in appearance and a performer on stage, he and his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, embraced androgyny and refused to be whatever it was or is that society considers normal.

You may have read that he wanted to be superhuman.

And he was superhuman in his talent, in his prolific output of creativity and in his ability to not only express himself through clothes but in his ability to express the many facets of his personality and mind and being — because for as much as we may have a uniform or an aesthetic or an aspiration, we are not one outfit or idea. We are many.

It’s one of the few reasons we’re paying tribute to him today by honoring his rules of style. As interpreted through the lens of a person who can only hope to one day view life as multidimensionally as David Bowie did, they are:

Never ask someone how an item of clothing makes you look. Ask yourself how it makes you feel.

Embrace color.

Especially the colors that terrify you.

Wear bold patterns and huge shapes — anything that allows you to take up space.

And maybe then you can relax into the quiet.

…Before you make a lot of noise.

Gold is good but it’s great when drawn in a circle, smack in the middle of your forehead.

Likewise, blue eyeshadow and magenta blush and a lightening bolt right down your face are not only acceptable, encouraged and delightful, but mandatory — at least on specific and important occasions.

Shoulder pads are probably due for a comeback.

On days that call for a sort of dialing back, a hat and a sharp brow are all the finishing touches one needs.

It’s also important to remember that a mask doesn’t mean you’re hiding.

And silk doesn’t mean you’re showing off.

Suits aren’t just for men.

Platforms aren’t just for women.

But glitter, glamour, sharp angles, shine, neck scarves, flares and patent leather, low-heed shoes are for people. All people. Anyone who craves the feeling of superfluidity, because fashion — I’m almost positive — is the only way to defy gravity while keeping yourself grounded in the beauty of life.

“I don’t know where I’m going from here,” David Bowie famously said, “But I promise it won’t be boring.”

The man on the moon always lived on Mars.


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  • This was a really great tribute Amelia. I admit to not following Bowie much, but I really respect people who live(d) their lives not worrying all the time about others’ perceptions.

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  • alex


    • alex


      • Leandra Medine


        • Jane

          Never before in my life have I uttered/typed the phrase “#goals” and fortunately this one goes without saying.

    • Krista Anna Lewis

      I feel like I failed at my job for not getting this into the slideshow. TOO GOOD.

  • allie

    Love Bowie and loved this remembrance! Just wanted to clarify that “Lazarus” is not a record but a single/music video from “Blackstar,” which did come out two days before he died. Important to note because it means he released a whole body of music just before his death.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Hey Allie! Using the word “record” to mean single or track — think “Record of the Year” at the Grammys (aware that Blackstar is full album) but in an effort to not confuse anyone I will amend.

  • Elle

    Confirming Allie’s previous comment: his new album is entitled, “Blackstar.” Lazarus is a show for the stage that he co-wrote (and the title of the third track off of the aforementioned album), which is wrapping up its run at New York City Theater. This genius of a man had a heavy hand in shaping who I am today, as I’m certain rings true for countless others. We’re lucky to have this last masterpiece bequeathed upon us as a parting gift. Let us all remember him – the Thin White Duke, Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, or whichever representation you most fondly recall. – in our own, unique way today. Rest peacefully in the heavens, my prince.

  • Kristi

    Hey, just want to put out there that he is guilty of sleeping with a 13 year old girl. The Baby Groupies were popular in ’70’s. No one at the age of 13 can consent in the U.S.. I love the Man Repeller but I can’t do problematic praising.

    • Arva

      Oh yeah, Lori Maddox, who once says she lost her virginity to Bowie, forgetting she told earlier that she lost it to Jimmy Page ? Right.

  • Leandra Medine

    something sad: i had a dr. appt on the UES earlier today and heard a young girl tell her mom “by the way! i was right! no one in my class knew who david bowie was” 🙁

    • sarah

      my 13 yo daughter has recently really gotten into bowie (starman word for word), because we have been paying it a lot ( I grew up in the 70’s and bowie was/is my god) – a musical education is the responsibility of the parents – shame on their parents i say.

    • Margot Christmas

      Oh my god, I just cannot believe it. I guess I’ll have to name my kids David and Bowie to make up for all of the other kids who dont know him.

  • Erin

    I loved David Bowie. I love his music, I love his ethos, I admire his talent, and his individuality. To never be mistaken for someone else must be exciting. I used to tell my husband i hope our kids turn out to be like Bowie or Beck. I always meant it in the sense that I hope they are original. I hope they aren’t afraid to take risks and, weather they seem them as risks or not. I hope they stand out for who they are and they are bright. I hope I can raise children that fly their freak flag high for everyone to see. I looked up to David Bowie quite a bit, and while I’m pregnant now with our first child, I cried on and off about him all day (it may have been the hormones), but I was so excited to show our little one all the beauty and goodness, and art and color and fun we can have has a species. His passing reminds me to pass along the positive to my child and not the darkness.

  • Bowie was never one to disappoint. The man was a brilliant musician/storyteller and an inspiration to those who felt like they didn’t belong. You will be missed, Starman..

  • While Bowie’s influence was still very much alive and acknowledged in the creative industry, synchronized appreciation for him still had the natural ebbs and flows as is typical for someone no longer front and center in the spotlight. It makes me feel incredibly guilty that it takes a final death to throw into sharp relief vDUH BOWIE was not only ahead of his time but still ahead of ours! Of all our championing of millennial misfit-dom he was so there before Gaga or FKA Twigs or Mika or Janelle Monae and so on and so forth…and while there are articles and slideshows posted on fashion and music blogs well before his death that attest to this it never feels like the praise is enough.

    I am by no means his biggest fan (as in I do not know all of his music and work front to back) but it always makes me feel guilty and dumb when I feel the urge to celebrate and revisit the work of someone after they die.

    Why didn’t I know he came out with a new album until after he died? Why do I know about Adele’s without even searching for it?

    There’s a lesson in there somewhere, but also it’s just life–heroes don’t always consistently get to hold a prime position in our consciousness even though they’re in that pink matter somewhere…

    • Amelia Diamond

      Kristy I actually have some thoughts on this! But am going to write back in a bit.

  • Catalina

    Awesome tribute, Amelia. Sharing this on my FB 😀

  • Leah

    I was too scared for wide leg pants last week but this week I bought some old man trousers from a charity shop and my 2016 look is Thin White Duke, in tribute to the greatest musician of my lifetime.

  • P McDougall

    “You may have read that he wanted to be superhuman.” Really? I’ve never heard that Where did that quote come from exactly? This comes across as a fluff piece by someone who is not a Bowie fan.

  • Gustavo Woltmann

    Bowie was great but it takes a special kind of person to pull off that style. I’m not one of them.

  • Warning Clothing

    I think david bowie make his statement with his looks, and that’s a cool thing

  • Catalina

    AD – I made your “relax into the quiet… before you make a lot of noise” my profile picture caption. so, kind of a big deal. its honestly the best mantra i’ve ever read.