With the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards just around the corner, we’re preparing ourselves for bold fashion and outlandish beauty choices. Unlike some other red carpet events, the VMAs doesn’t take itself too seriously and the guest’s sartorial offerings reflect this. To get ready for this year’s event, which takes place this Sunday, we’re looking back over over some of the VMAs red carpet’s best, worst, and general WTF looks from the past. There have been so many unbelievable appearances on the red carpet over the years from singers, rappers, actresses, models, and general hanger-ons, but this edit focuses firmly on musicians. So make yourself a cuppa, get comfy, and join us on a trip down memory lane.
Jennifer Lopez, 2000
Yes, I know everyone went crazy for J.Lo’s cutout Versace number last year, but for me, her iconic look will always be the all-white ensemble she wore in 2000 (I have a funny feeling she actually recycled her outfit from 1998, just minus the cowboy hat and oversized blazer). White bootcut jeans, strappy heels, a crop top, bedazzled bandana and body glitter… you think it can’t get any better, until you remember she had Diddy on her arm. RIP to my favourite celebrity couple of all time.
Let’s not lie, Queen Bey has had a few shockers over the years – 2004, anyone? – as well as some jaw-droppingly amazing ones, like her sexy red siren look in 2009 (the infamous year of Swiftgate). However, the year that will always stand out is 2011: the year she announced her pregnancy. Her Grecian inspired orange Lanvin gown, which at the start of the night concealed her bump, suddenly showed it to off perfection. [Sidenote: if you haven’t watched her performance from last year’s show, what the fuck have you been doing with your life?]
Miley Cyrus, 2013
If anyone has had a VMA red carpet evolution, it’s this lady. The host of this year’s event, Miley will forever be embedded in MTV VMAs history for that routine with Robin Thicke. However, the songstress is just as likely to shock off-stage with her fashion choices. Our Miles made her VMA red carpet debut in 2008 as the ultimate Disney pop-princess. In 2010 at the European Music Awards she showed a little bit of grungy deviation from her cookie-cutter roots with tousled hair and a unique tiered dress complete with pussy-bow. But even as recently as 2011 she was still playing the classic Hollywood starlet card in a Roberto Cavalli gown, with her extensions swept up into an updo. Fast forward to 2012 and she had completely transformed herself (kind of into fellow singer, P!nk): short, bleached blonde hair and a sexy, gothic style black Pucci gown ensured all eyes were on her. And they definitely weren’t leaving anytime soon – in 2013, she rocked up in a vintage Dolce & Gabbana two piece; which, although a marmite outfit, is easily one of my favourite Miley looks ever. Although she toned things down in a very chic leather co-ord set in 2014, I have a feeling she’s going to pull something special out of the bag this year.
Katy Perry, 2014
Come on, you didn’t really think it would be anything else, did you? Ms Perry is known for pushing boundaries with her fashion choices, but her denim Versace homage to Britney at last year’s awards (complete with Riff Raff as Justin Timberlake) really got everyone talking. Outlandish looks are definitely her thing – her quirky, thrifted number in 2008; My Little Pony hair in 2010; Japanese inspired Atelier Versace in 2011; and 2013‘s grill, just to name a few. Credit where credit’s due, she showed up looking like an absolute superstar in 2009, wearing a glitzy silver dress. Good god, that body!!!
As I’m sure you know, this woman is kind of a big deal when it comes to the fashion game. From hot pink satin in 2007 to the mullet, jeans and vest combo she sported during 2013‘s event, Rihanna always does things her way. It was in 2012, however, that I think she truly outdid herself. She showed up with her hair cropped, a red lip, and a white gown – it was such a simple look, but so beautiful. She looked happy and radiant, and to this day, it’s my favourite hairstyle on her.
Britney Spears, 2003
Brit Brit’s had quite the ride during her years in the industry (2007 Britney, #neverforget), but when it comes to the VMAs, she’ll always reign supreme. Her 2001 performance of ‘Slave 4 U’, and that incredible outfit complete with an actual, real life snake, will forever be one of the most iconic music performances of all time. She’s given a few memorable red carpet offerings over the years, including the denim horror from the 2001 AMAs that Katy Perry so kindly brought back into the public psyche. Some of her most standout VMA looks to date include her combo of snakeprint trousers and a bronze, cropped jacket in 1999 (is it wrong that I kind of want the jacket?), and that weird leather ensemble from 2002 that gives off major BDSM vibes. But it was her bridal whites for snogging Madonna in 2003 that I think will always be her most important red carpet look. The lace ivory corset and skirt teamed with strands of pearls and white PVC boots gave a taster of what was to come during the ceremony – yes, it was the kiss that was seen around the world. It was also the kiss that made Justin Timberlake die a little inside.
Selena Gomez, 2013
She looks ridiculously good here. Selena has never been afraid to take a bit of a fashion risk, or show off those amazing legs (as she did in 2010 and 2011), but this is just next level. The dress is Atelier Versace, and although there are about a million elements at place – lace, cut-out, thigh-high split, studs, structuring, a bit of a power shoulder – it just works. I don’t know how, but it does. The clear, pointed courts are sexy, the sleek hair is just so healthy and glossy, and the emerald earrings are to die for. She just looks like a woman who is composed and sure of herself, and I love it.
Cast your minds back: the year is 2002 and Christina Aguilera is in full Xtina mode. Gearing up for the MTV VMAs, Xtina thought to herself, ‘What should I wear? Perhaps a glitzy gown or flirty short dress? Maybe shake it up a bit and wear trousers? No. I can do better.’ The result: a strategically draped scarf and what is essentially a denim belt. Love it or hate it (and I think everyone kind of feels both at once?), you can’t deny your jaw dropped when you saw this one.
Lady Gaga, 2010
Okay, so I know I said that Miley has the shock factor and that Katy Perry always pushes the boat out. Well, I feel a little embarrassed now, because this girl leaves them all in the dust. Honestly, I could probably put any outfit of hers here and it would make every other offering on the list look tame, but I’ve got to go with the carcass style McQueen ‘meat dress’ from 2010. This is apparently $100 worth of raw beef – surely when you factor in the accessories (a meat headpiece, clutch and platform shoes) it would cost more? Whatever, this one still leaves me speechless. Other honourable mentions from Gaga include 2011‘s Jo Calderone and what I have interpreted as a raven of death, feather affair in 2009 (I can’t lie, I love this one).
Rita Ora, 2013
If we’re talking about personal style, Rita has it by the bucketload, but I have to be honest, it tends to be a step too far for me. However, this bedazzled, feathered Alexandre Vauthier gown she wore in 2013 is seriously spectacular. The craftmanship on the embellished top half is incredibly detailed, and the dreamy skirt with it’s long feathered train radiates Swan Lake vibes. She’s been known to miss the mark, but this gown knocked it out of the park.
Lil Kim, 1999
YOU CAN’T TALK ABOUT THE VMAs AND NOT MENTION 1999 LIL KIM!!! I would consider it a cardinal sin. This look was so iconic, so important, that it has seeped into the cultural mainstream as bonafide sartorial inspiration. Miley channelled this actual look for Halloween ’14. Samantha from ‘Sex and the City’ did a Kim when she lost her hair to cancer and had to buy her first wig. It is, without question, my favourite VMA red carpet look OF ALL TIME (read that in a Kanye voice, please.) Honestly, she is a total legend and pretty much everything she has ever worn/done deserves to be talked about, but this is just an all time great.
Nicki Minaj, 2014
Shy and retiring are definitely not words you would associate with Nicki, so when she rocked up in this relatively demure leopard print dress for last year’s VMAs, it probably had more shock factor than all her previous outfits combined. The Saint Laurent dress sizzled on her curves, as well as giving a nod to her track ‘Anaconda’ which she would perform that night (it’s a must watch, by the way). Just compare this to the red and black lace catsuit she wore two years before, in 2012. You can’t say the girl doesn’t know how to change it up.
Macy Gray, 2001
Yes, this actually happened. There really isn’t a lot to say. Okay, I honestly have nothing to say. Macy has said everything you need to know.
Taylor Swift, 2012
I can’t lie, I find Taylor’s style pretty dull. For daytime she does vintage ladylike chic; with blouses, legs on display, and heels. For night, it tends to be metallic, embellished glitz. All I can say is no matter how lovely she may look, it’s always a fairly predictable affair. However, it seems not even she is immune to the ecclectic, exciting power of the VMA red carpet! Okay, so 2009 happened. But the slinky navy (potentially inspired by her best pal Selena’s look that year/teamed with totally the wrong hair and makeup) Herve Leger number in 2013! The blue alphabet-printed playsuit by Mary Katrantzou (admittedly paired with hideous shoes) in 2014! My personal favourite has to be her 2012 take on men’s tailoring in that white hot suit. The red lip, which can sometimes feel a little too ‘this-was-cool-in-the-fifties-so-I’m-going-to-do-it-all-the-time’ with Tay, was perfect teamed with the crisp white. Her hair looked incredible – also, slightly off topic, or does anyone else miss her long sleek hair with a blunt fringe? I feel like her current bob is a little mumsy on her sometimes – some people do a tousled bob and it looks so chic and cool and effortless, but I just don’t think that will ever be Taylor’s vibe. Anyway, I just thought men’s tailoring was so unexpected from her, a real breath of fresh air.
This was Aaliyah’s last appearance at the VMAs before her tragic passing aged 22, and I’m pretty certain it will stay in people’s minds forever. Not just because it was the last time we would see her on the VMA red carpet, but because it really was such a standout dress. The bold coloured animal print, feathering, thigh-high split, and strappy shoes are all bang on trend today – in fact, if she had worn this to the 2015 ceremony, she wouldn’t look out of place. Less than two weeks after her death, she was honoured at the 2001 VMAs – you can watch the tribute to her here.
It’s strange thinking about it, but there was a point in time when Beyonce was just a member of a girlband. Okay, she was pretty much their lead, was dating Jay Z, and starring in movies, but still. Flashback to the Destiny’s Child years, and good lord Tina Knowles has some explaining to do. As stylist for the band, she took co-ordination to a whole new level; handmaking their outfits so the girls always kept that essential girlband synchronicity. Special shoutout goes to this orange and turquoise themed look from 2001, with the girls clearly reppin’ Texas – just look at the fringing and boots! I also have a sneaky feeling this colour scheme was the inspiration for Bey’s 2011 outfit choice. However, my personal favourite look that DC brought us on the red carpet has to be this leather fiasco, complete with some serious bedazzling. Quick question: how does Beyonce look good in a floor length leather skirt?
If Britney is the VMA’s princess, Madonna is the Queen. She performed ‘Like a Virgin’ at the first ever MTV VMA’s in 1984 (watch it!) which put her on the map as the queen of pop, and her performances have been equally incredible ever since. Chanelling Marie Antoinette for her 1990 performance of ‘Vogue’? Check. Pretty much becoming Marlene Dietrich for ‘Bye Bye Baby’ in 1993? Nailed it. Bringing Kabbalah to the masses with ‘Ray of Light’ in 1998? Obviously. Scandalising the world with a Britney/Madge/Xtina sandwich during a medley performance in 2003? Of course. She’s always ruled the stage, but she commands just as much attention when she’s on the red carpet. For me, her most iconic VMA look will always be her first one – she was truly the original trendsetter for the event, and I think she set the tone for its red carpet since.
Gwen Stefani, 2014
Gwen came out all guns blazing last year, repping her very own L.A.M.B. design. I love everything about this – the contrast of pink and black, the cute little bun in her hair, the way it’s trousers and a top instead of a dress. Also, I love the peplum, and I normally despise peplum. Another thing: this woman does not age! Her makeup is also perfect – don’t get me wrong, I love Gwen with a red lip, but I loooveeeeeee when she does pink. Throwback for those who hate Gwen/fashion/themselves and want to see her on the 1998 red carpet.
The Rock, 2000
I know I said this was going to focus strictly on musicians, but I just think as many people as possible should see this image.
Dennis Rodman, 1995