Editor’s note: This is one installment in a ten-part March Madness series. These rankings were voted on by The Daily Californian arts & entertainment staff.
The first round of outrageous red-carpet looks was a face-off featuring decades’ worth of crazy fashion. Lady Gaga, the best-known outrageous red-carpet star, deservingly moved on to the next round for two looks — her notorious meat dress at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, or VMAs, and her egg-pod appearance at the 2011 Grammys. Some famously controversial looks, however, didn’t make it — Lil’ Kim’s memorable sequined purple pasty appearance at the 1999 VMAs was beaten by Rose McGowan’s 1998 VMAs look, and J. Lo’s plunging neckline at the 2000 Grammys lost to Rihanna’s Comme des Garçons dress at the 2017 Met Gala.
The second round of looks was composed of a very diverse group of stars, including Cher, CeeLo Green and Björk. Cher’s Oscars look from 1998, a sparkling nude dress with a matching headpiece, was one of the many theatrical Bob Mackie pieces she’s worn across her long and over-the-top career; it’s no surprise that such a daring Oscars look advanced her to the next round. Cher wasn’t the only one to don a daring look at the Academy Awards — Björk wore a bizarre swan dress to the 2001 Oscars that spoke to her offbeat persona as a whole. Predictably, the mystifying star made it to round two. The VMAs seem to be another popular event for celebrities to be daring on the red carpet. McGowan shocked audiences with her sheer black beaded dress in 1998, and Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake wore memorably hideous denim looks to the show in 2001.
Of the final four spots in round three, Lady Gaga occupied two with her aforementioned shocking outfits. Rihanna also made the cut with her 2017 Comme dress, an avant-garde fantasy look that deservingly earned her another spot in the final round. Just one of the singer’s numerous legendary Met Gala looks over the years, her sculptural pink and red dress was matched with strappy red heels and bold, warm-toned makeup. The matching denim outfits of Spears and Timberlake were a landmark moment in the history of bad fashion. But this is a competition of creativity and brazenness rather than style, so they understandably advanced to the final round.
Each of the final four red-carpet looks was iconic in the world of extravagant fashion, but Lady Gaga’s was the obvious winner. It’s no coincidence that the final two looks were both worn by the star. Since the beginning of her career, she has been well-known for her elaborate and bold fashion choices, and these two looks, in particular, were the pinnacles of her avant-garde fashion history. She donned the meat dress, a wildly contentious outfit, as a statement against LGBTQ+ discrimination in the military. As Gaga stated in 2010, “If we don’t stand up for what we believe in, if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones.”
The egg capsule, on the other hand, was a testament to both Gaga’s creative stylistic choices and her intense dedication to artistry. She arrived at the 2011 Grammys in the giant pod, carried by half-naked latex-wearing guests. Gaga claimed that she was in the temperature-controlled “vessel” for three days leading up to the red carpet. This was an expected winner when it comes to outrageous red-carpet fashion; not only did Gaga outdo herself and the other attendees, but she also donned one of the most memorable looks of her career. The look encapsulated all the great aspects of innovative style — it took risks and blurred the lines between performance art and fashion, creating a shocking and memorable outcome.
Red-carpet fashion has long given celebrities the opportunity to explore the extent of their creativity on a public scale and allowed audiences to appreciate the work of talented designers. The outfits included in this bracket certainly pushed the boundaries of originality on the red carpet — and the celebrities wearing them gave audiences a lot to talk about, too.
Salem Sulaiman covers fashion. Contact him at [email protected].