The Daily Californian Arts & Entertainment picks for best-dressed at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards

photo of Doja Cat at the VMAs

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In celebration of contemporary music and the art of the music video, the in-person 2021 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) were held in New York City’s Barclays Center Sept. 12 following a socially distant year. From Doja Cat’s Thom Browne “worm dress” to Lil Nas X’s gender-fluid Versace ensemble, here are The Daily Californian’s picks for best-dressed at this year’s VMAs.

Doja Cat in Thom Browne

Serving not only as the night’s vivacious host but also as an award nominee, rapper Doja Cat wore countless eye-catching looks, one of the most notable being a puffy, quilted Spring/Summer 2018 Thom Browne dress that sparked a collective fascination among viewers. While she delivered an acceptance speech alongside SZA for the VMAs “Best Collaboration” award for their chart-topping hit “Kiss Me More,” Doja Cat boldly stated that “I look like a worm, that’s dope” in reference to her outlandish couture piece. Thom Browne’s colorful creation encased the pop star in a combined headpiece/top with rounded shoulders. Encrusted jewels, which were carefully arranged to resemble beaming rays emitting from Doja Cat’s face, encircled her tight face cut-out. Ultimately, Doja Cat proved radiant in a daring gown that complimented her unapologetic humor and offbeat approach to fashion during this milestone in her career.

Normani in Patrycja Pagas

Dazzling on the red carpet, Normani stepped out in a two-piece set by British designer Patrycja Pagas. As viewers anticipated the television debut of her VMA-nominated hit “Wild Side,” the singer sported a vegan leather jacket with oversized sleeves and an exaggerated collar. Pagas is known for an architectural approach to form, and her design for Normani paired the singer’s structured jacket with a matching, deconstructed wrap skirt for a more experimental take on the traditional skirt suit silhouette. As Normani continues to make waves with her charismatic musical presence, this VMA appearance is just one more memorable moment in the artist’s young career.

Billie Eilish 

In a throwback to the signature oversized silhouettes of her early career, Billie Eilish wore a baggy knit sweater over a black pleated skirt for this year’s red carpet. Prior to the release of her popular sophomore album Happier Than Ever, the songstress had recently been a frequent headline topic for her dramatic style overhaul. After swapping her streetwear disposition for the glamour of gowns and corsets, Eilish emerged in an elevated rendition of the roomy, oversized outfits reminiscent of the beginnings of her ascent into the contemporary zeitgeist. From the loosely knit sweater to her skirt’s subtle floral detail, multiple textile elements add intricacy to this adaptation of her comfy style.

Lil Nas X in Atelier Versace

Before making VMA history as the winner of the show’s top honor for “Video of the Year,” Lil Nas X stunned with his individualized suit-gown hybrid from Atelier Versace that defied gender norms. The young performer appeared to be paying homage to legendary Black music icons of prior generations: Lil Kim, Rick James and Prince. Sparing no expense, Lil Nas X embraced the extravagance of his inspirations in a sparkling, off-the-shoulder tuxedo jacket that cascaded into a crystal-encrusted skirt train. Since his rise as one of the music industry’s most prolific young voices, intricate and eccentric fashion moments such as this one are only expected from the “Montero” singer — and this time, Lil Nas X impressed with his tribute to those who broke boundaries before him while also celebrating his LGBTQ+ identity.

Kim Petras in Richard Quinn

Pop artist Kim Petras donned a look by London-based designer Richard Quinn’s Ready-to-Wear Fall 2021 collection, covered head-to-toe in black latex under a heavily-embellished babydoll dress. Here, Quinn’s design trademarks of pairing BDSM-esque latex suits with whimsical, daintier dresses resulted in an exaggeration of this look’s individual elements. For Petras, this methodology was taken a step further with the stark juxtaposition between black latex beneath an ornate, cross-ladened dress reminiscent of Catholic chapel imagery. This beautifully Byzantine — yet slightly terrifying — look enhances the pop star’s reputation as an unapologetic provocateur in both music and fashion.

Michelle San Andres covers fashion. Contact her at [email protected].