Faux Pas - Nil Points?

On Eurovision night when you get your willing friends gathered around the TV (the unwilling ones in the kitchen chatting) and you give out your lovely freshly printed scorecards, I bet there's a category on there for you to vote on clothes. Eurovision is synonymous with the clothes worn. Every clip show you see will have a feature on it and the most memorable will be shown year after year on every selection show. But what is rarely discussed is the impact of these clothes. The question I'm asking today is do outfits have an impact on where the song places? Let us look at some of the most interesting outfits to have graced the Eurovision stage.

Every year since 1997 the House of Eurovision website has held the Barbara Dex Award. Barbara represented Belgium in 1993 wearing a self-made beige see-through dress-come-shirt-come-Wizard's-gown. After performing in Dutch, she pulled in only 3 points and finished in last place.

Barbara Dex and her infamous outfit, represented Belgium and came last in 1993

Terry Wogan even noticed her 'sardine' earrings. The song itself, while not awful, was not helped by the dreariest arrangement and the most yawn-enducing direction of the performance. It's as if the camera men have even nodded off during this song. I'm deliberately researching this and even I'm finding it hard to stay focussed (I've decided on tuna sandwiches for lunch). So, song or outfit? Or performance? I'd go with the performance on this one - in fact the hideous dress has catapulted this song into notoriety! Without her delivery of beige chiffon we'd not be discussing this song right now! The fact Barbara has her own tongue-in-cheek awards means that her outfit WAS noticed, if not for the right reasons.

One outfit I'd remember even without Barbara bringing it to my attention would be the 1999 gay flag worn by Spanish representative Lydia. Like Barbara, Lydia is a pretty girl - I can however only speculate that she had a slim figure due to the many metres of billowing rainbow coloured fabric swamping her body.

Lydia, with another fashion faux pas, representing Spain and finishing last in 1999

If the colour wasn't 'striking' enough, Lydia added not only shoulder pads but what I can only imagine is a heart trying to escape from her cleavage. Now, if this outfit had been donned by someone prancing around to some euro-trashtic dance number, they could possibly have got away with it, but Lydia's sultry, dark No Quiero Escuchar required something a lot less in your face. Her song translates as 'I don't want to listen'. Well Lydia, I don't want to look. Lydia went home to Spain in last place.

In 2012 a firm fan favourite going into the contest was the Dutch entry by Joan Franka. Her cutesy little ditty about a childhood love looked set to take the Netherlands back to the final for the first time since 2004. Joan made an error though. Her dress was lovely but utterly un-noticeable due to what was on her head.

'Indiana Joan' failed to qualify for the Netherlands in 2012

A Native American head-dress isn't something you'd quickly associate with the Netherlands, leaving many Europeans confused I imagine. She failed to qualify.

This wasn't the only native-American head-dress of the millennium though. Back in 2000 Sweden's Roger Pontare also opted for the feathered bonce look. He managed a seventh place in a field of 24. So what's the difference? We can only assume that the Swedish entry was assisted not only by the fact that Sweden was hosting the contest, but also that the song and the outfit fitted together much better than the Dutch song. Roger went all out for a tribal feel, where as Joan's link was rather less obvious. (Something to do with playing cowboys and Indians as children?)

Following on from this thought there have been many, MANY bad outfits but some have them have worked perfectly with their respective songs. Ukraine 2007's Verka Sedurchka's outfit standing alone in a shop would look like a 70s communist throw-back but with its song it works perfectly. The same can probably be said of Ireland 1996, Iceland 1997 and Charlotte Nilsson's skin coloured body stocking from 1999 to name but a few.

On the flip side we can look at songs that had bad outfits that made no sense with the song - simply bad outfits. The first one coming to mind is Andorra's offering in 2008 Casanova by Gisela.

Gisela's outfit was panned in 2008 and Andorra missed the final once again

Another pretty girl hidden by her outfit. The song was a mid-tempo offering that could well have qualified but the solid metal bodice, the tutu skirt and most importantly the claw upon her forehead distracted from and dare I say cheapened the song entirely. I'm not surprised Gisela's vocals were strained by the end - the poor love couldn't breathe!

On a tangent - metal bodices have featured at at least two other contests. Karolina wore a golden one complete with six-pack and pert nipples in 2002 for FYR Macedonia. She teamed it up with a red ballroom gown on the bottom and placed a lowly nineteenth despite a Buck's Fizz moment. And in 2011 Maja Keuc sported a silver bodice-come chainmail dress. Maja qualified and finished a respectable thirteenth, most likely due to her phenomenal voice.

I could happily spend all day listing the most memorable outfits at the contest (pay me for doing it and I'd die happy) but there have been so many we'd be here 'til Christmas. Christmas 2015.  So here's some quickies - some advice I've discovered during my research:

1. Dress as an elderly prostitute with makeup only a self-hating drag queen would like and your mediocre song will take you no higher than 18th place.

2. If you can only afford two colours of fabric then double your money by giving your dancers matching outfits!

3. If your mum has some old curtains going, recycle them into a rather jazzy jacket to distract from the seedy 70's porn style song you're singing.

4. Why not try mixing a country and western style look with a Victorian strumpet for that extra impact - don't forget the lace!

5. If your song is dated, make sure you dress to match!

A personal favourite bad outfit (or the opposite of favourite) is that of Lisa Del Bo in 1996. Another Belgian representative. Three years after Barbara's beige ensemble, Lisa opted for a white suit jacket teamed up with a rather snazzy puffy skirt. This is a brilliant outfit to study as we can directly compare it to the 1988 winner's outfit - a white suit jacket teamed up with a rather snazzy puffy skirt.  Both outfits similar in their hideousness, yet one finished first, the other sixteenth. Is this an occasion proving the strength of a song and voice can outshine any costume clangers? Or is it the case that 1988 was more the era of a tutu and suit jacket look - the 80s having been responsible for many worse fashions?

Another Belgian faux pas. Lisa Del Bo in Oslo, 1996

So, what's the answer? I'd say that if the clothes are 'in context', by which I mean they are song appropriate then surely they can only help the song. Therefore if they don't fit the song and in fact distract from it, then it will probably have a negative impact on the song. Without being able to ever find out how each song would have performed with different outifits we'll never have a definitive answer, but what I think we can conclude is that a song CAN be affected by bad outfits - a mediocre song could end up worse off, but ultimately a good song will prevail.  But ask yourself, would Loreen have won Eurovision if she'd dressed up as Krusty the Clown?

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