Lady Gaga's fashion evolution, from raw meat to A Star Is Born
The many looks of Lady Gaga
In the grand tradition of great pop divas, Lady Gaga has made a habit of reinventing herself every few years, shedding one sparkling skin for another whenever her creative spirit sees fit. But her reincarnations aren’t only musical: The singer’s expressive artistry extends to her wild wardrobe, which has given us dresses made of raw meat, jackets made of Kermit-the-Frogs, and gowns made of… um, just really beautiful black velvet. As she enters a new phase with her Chromatica era, check out some of her most memorable looks from the stage, the red carpet, and her iconic music videos.
At Lollapalooza in August 2007
Even before the release of her debut album, 2008’s The Fame, Gaga had begun developing her early glitter-glam aesthetic. Performing at Lollapalooza in 2007, she wore a homemade disco-mirror bra with black panties and a matching belt.
The "Just Dance" music video, May 2008
In the music video for her first smash single, the singer’s DIY-disco look evolved with a reappearance of the mirror bra and a nod to one of her inspirations, David Bowie, whom she acknowledged with some lightning-bolt makeup.
The "Poker Face" music video, October 2008
Gaga wasn’t finished with her deconstructed disco-ball accessories when she released the video for her second single, which did up the ante, however, in the wardrobe department. Wearing now-iconic disco-mirror sunglasses and a sculptural latex bodysuit, she began her experimentation with more avant-garde details.
On Good Day New York in October 2008
Performing on Good Day New York the week following the release of the “Poker Face” video, Gaga reiterated the aesthetic created in that clip with a white sculptural leotard, crystal-covered glasses, and most notably, her signature blonde hair-bow.
On a German talk show in July 2009
Gaga would later explain that this groundbreaking instance of Muppet-based fashion was a statement against wearing fur.
At the MTV VMAs in September 2009
The Mother Monster hit her first VMAs red carpet in a corseted black lace dress by Jean Paul Gaultier, accessorized with a gold mask and neck brace by Keko Hainswheeler, in a look that neatly tied together her interests in vintage bodily constriction and modern metallics. That show brought her infamous bloody-hanging performance (not pictured), and when she accepted the Moonman for Best New Artist, she did so in her fourth outfit of the evening (out of six!), a Red Queen-inspired getup consisting of a sheer lace dress from Alexander McQueen and a matching mask that entirely covered her face, all topped with a spiky red crown.
The "Bad Romance" music video, November 2009
The “Bad Romance” music video is a high point of one of Gaga’s greatest creative collaborations, and it’s not with a musician. “Bad Romance” (the song, not the video) made its debut at Paris Fashion Week in October 2009, on the runway of Alexander McQueen’s iconic “Plato’s Atlantis” show. When it came time for Gaga to shoot the single’s epic music video (directed by eventual Hunger Games helmer Francis Lawrence), the young designer sent pieces from that collection for her to wear, including its breathtaking, hard-to-wear final look (center). “I just remember that, when I wore that outfit, I just kept saying to everyone on set, ‘We can’t wear anything else from any other designers except for young kids, and everything has to look good with McQueen’s clothes,’” Gaga said about the shoot. She had to forgo the high fashion for the video’s kinetic dance sequences, however, first draping herself in jewels and then strapping in to a skin-baring lacy red leotard.
Meeting Queen Elizabeth II in December 2009
The Edwardian silhouette is practically a costume of what one ought to wear to meet the Queen — if it were rendered in, say, an airy white lace. Gaga, naturally, opted for red latex and matching glittery eye decals.
At the Grammys in January 2010
Gaga went to the future for the 2010 Grammys, wearing a sculptural lavender Armani Privé gown with gravity-defying glittery shoes. And since she’s never been to an awards show that hasn’t merited a wardrobe change (or two, or five), she switched into a sparkly white minidress (gathered upward in the back, to reveal a rhinestone-stocking-covered derrière) and an enormous glittering glacier of a headpiece to accept her awards for Best Electronic/Dance Album (for The Fame) and Best Dance Recording (“Poker Face”).
The "Telephone" music video, March 2010
Gaga took a break from disco-mirrored everything to experiment with theme in the “Telephone” music video (which also, lest we forget, featured Beyoncé, but her fashion evolution is a whole other conversation). As an inmate in a women’s prison, Gaga first appears in a shoulder-padded black-and-white striped dress — but it’s the accessories where she really got into the spirit of the setting. She draped herself in chains and wore sunglasses covered in (still-smoking!) cigarettes, used Diet Coke cans as hair rollers, spoke on a telephone that was actually a hat, and wrapped herself in police tape over the course of the video.
At the MTV VMAs in September 2010
When Lady Gaga hit the VMAs carpet in 2010, people probably thought her Alexander McQueen gown — worn just a few months after his death — paired with the late designer’s impossible-looking armadillo shoes, was an extravagant look. "Wow," they must have thought, "Gaga’s really done it again." How little we knew! How innocent we were! Who could ever have guessed how outrageously she would outdo herself before the night was over? Later, to accept the Video of the Year award for “Bad Romance” (from Cher, no less), the star took the stage in a dress, hat, and shoes made of raw beef — making a statement that “I am not a piece of meat.” PETA, which had previously applauded her Kermit coat, did not approve.
The "Judas" music video, May 2011
Gaga, a progressive practicing Christian, has explored religious themes in much of her music and many of her videos, but perhaps none quite so explicitly as “Judas.” The music video for the Born This Way track casts the star as Mary Magdalene, opposite Norman Reedus as the holy traitor of the song’s title, a member of a motorcycle gang consisting of the 12 apostles. Her divine costumes throughout the clip mash up sacred imagery with biker style, including a blue hooded top with the sacred heart across the chest, and a whole lot of cross jewelry.
The "Yoü and I" music video, August 2011
Lady Gaga tried on many personae in the “Yoü and I” music video, appearing as a half-bionic woman traveling across the Midwest; a girl playing a piano in a cornfield; a man — Gaga’s alter ego Jo Calderone (more on him later) — sitting atop that piano smoking a cigarette; a girl being tortured in a barn; a blue-haired dancing Gaga; and, of course, Yüyi the mermaid. Following the release of the video, she celebrated the distinctive looks by releasing five “fashion films” branded “Haus of Ü.”
At the MTV VMAs in August 2011
Jo Calderone, wearing a white T-shirt under an oversize suit and smoking a cigarette, took the stage at the 2011 VMAs to deliver a long monologue about his love life with Lady Gaga, perform “Yoü and I,” and then honor Britney Spears. In the press room following the appearance, Gaga would only answer questions in character as her alter ego.
The "Applause" music video, August 2013
The “Applause” music video, released in advance of Artpop, leaned heavily into that album’s theme of the intersection of art and pop. The clip’s many costumes referenced Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal and Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, among other iconic works of art.
At the Academy Awards in February 2015
The 2015 Oscars came just a few months after the release of Cheek to Cheek, Gaga’s decidedly old-school release of jazz standards recorded with Tony Bennett. The moment marked another rebirth for Gaga, who showed up to the Academy Awards looking… like a lady. She hit the carpet in a custom textured Alaïa gown, on which she closely collaborated with the designer, paired with bright red gloves. To perform a stirring tribute to The Sound of Music during the ceremony, she wore another Alaïa with a classic, voluminous silhouette.
At the Golden Globes in January 2016
Gaga won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Movie in 2016, for her performance in American Horror Story. She showed up to the ceremony, however, not invoking the horror of the TV show at all, but channeling Marilyn Monroe with a platinum-blond retro bob and a custom black velvet Atelier Versace gown with a plunging neckline and padded hips.
At the Grammys in February 2016
Gaga’s early sartorial Bowie references came full circle at the 2016 Grammys, which took place just over a month after he died. She honored the late icon in a cobalt coat and bright red hair on the carpet, and then performed a tribute to him wearing a white cape, lightning bolts projected onto her face, during the show.
At the Academy Awards in February 2016
The star continued her takeover of the 2016 awards season at the Oscars, where she was nominated for Best Original Song for “Til It Happens to You.” Though relatively understated (for her) on the carpet, Gaga still stood out in a white strapless jumpsuit by Brandon Maxwell with a long train.
At the Met Gala in May 2016
The 2016 Met Gala theme, "Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology," seemed like an ideal fit for Gaga. She hit the carpet in a Versace jacket over a cutout leotard, sky-high platforms, and bright blond hair, letting fans know that despite her demure awards season showing, she still had some daring looks up her sleeve.
The "Million Reasons" music video, December 2016
Gaga had appeared on the Joanne album cover wearing a pink cowboy hat, and the video for the album’s second single, “Million Reasons,” solidified it as the defining look of this era of her career. In the video, she plays the guitar while wearing the hat and a matching pink suit.
Performing the Super Bowl LI halftime show in 2017
The Mother Monster returned to theme dressing for her Super Bowl halftime show performance in 2017, during which she wore bedazzled football shoulder pads along with matching booty shorts.
At the Grammys in February 2017
Leaning into heavy-metal vibes for the 2017 Grammys, Gaga hit the red carpet in a two-piece shiny black leather ensemble with spiky long sleeves and chains hanging from her hips, accessorized with aviators and thigh-high, very-high-heeled leather boots. Taking the stage with Metallica during the show, she wore studded shorts and a cropped T-shirt emblazoned with the band’s name, all over a fishnet bodysuit.
At the Grammys in January 2018
Gaga was a study in contrasts at the 2018 Grammys, first going a little goth on the carpet with a sheer, sequined lace bodysuit under an enormous black skirt (and crazy-high platform shoes, of course), her platinum-blond hair in two fishtail braids corseted together with black string. To perform during the show, she went angelic, keeping the hair but changing into a voluminous pale pink gown with huge, ruffled detached sleeves and beads down the front.
At the Venice Film Festival in August 2018
A star was born at Venice in 2018, when Gaga made her first grand entrance as a bona fide leading lady at the premiere of A Star Is Born. She hit the carpet with co-star and director Bradley Cooper, wearing this voluminous pale pink Valentino princess dress. The film’s positive reception set Gaga on a long awards season run filled with fabulous fashion.
At the ELLE Women in Hollywood Awards in October 2018
Gaga took a break from the Old Hollywood glamour of her A Star Is Born press run when she accepted the honor of being one of ELLE’s Women in Hollywood for 2018. For the ceremony, she opted for an exaggeratedly oversized suit by Marc Jacobs, explaining her choice when she took the podium. After trying on “10 or so dresses,” she chose “an oversized men’s suit made for a woman. Not a gown,” she said. “In this suit, I felt like me today. In this suit, I felt the truth of who I am well up in my gut. And then wondering what I wanted to say tonight become very clear to me.”
She continued by identifying herself as a survivor of sexual assault, a woman with chronic pain, and simply as a woman raised to live in a man’s world. But “I decided today I wanted to take the power back,” she said. “Today, I wear the pants.”
At the Enigma Las Vegas residency show in December 2018
Ever the fashion enigma, Gaga cycled through a wild wardrobe on opening night of her aptly titled Vegas residency, Enigma, which kicked off in December 2018. She opened the show — which follows a story in which Gaga enters a futuristic simulation wherein she can “solve the mystery of who you are” — in a mirrored bodysuit, which one can imagine refracting back all the various prior versions of Gaga the audience was projecting onto her from the start. As the show concluded (after a few changes in between), the star wore this structural, iridescent latex bodysuit and winged jacket by Vex, getting closer to the nakedness of her true self.
At the Golden Globes in January 2019
Gaga’s wardrobe was highly referential throughout her A Star Is Born press tour (and in fact throughout her entire career), and for her first major awards show with a nomination for the film, she went full Cinderella in a voluminous pale-blue ball gown by Valentino. But a classic princess dress wouldn’t quite be right for the inventive star; she kept the look fully monochrome with a fairy-tale updo, tinted to match the periwinkle gown.
At the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January 2019
For the 2019 SAG Awards, where Gaga was nominated for A Star Is Born, she kept up her Old Hollywood approach by channeling Marilyn Monroe and her iconic Seven Year Itch look (with a hint of Angelina Jolie’s right leg, for good measure) in this plunging white Dior haute couture gown with frayed edges and a wrap detail at the waist. She finished the look with a Tiffany choker, platinum hair, white pumps, and a dramatic dark lip.
At the Academy Awards in February 2019
Gaga finished her Star Is Born awards journey with one more look taken straight from classic moviedom, an Alexander McQueen gown recalling Audrey Hepburn’s iconic Givenchy from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The Best Actress nominee (and Best Original Song winner) completed the structured, strapless look with long black leather gloves, a Holly Golightly updo, and best of all, the Tiffany Yellow Diamond — a 142-year-old, 128.54-carat stone previously worn by Hepburn herself to shoot Breakfast at Tiffany’s publicity photos.
At the Met Gala in May 2019
The theme at the 2019 Met Gala was “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” inspired by Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on Camp.” Appropriately for an event dedicated to performativity and pure excess, Gaga was named one of the annual ball’s co-chairs. She clearly took her duties seriously, arriving on the flamingo-pink carpet in this fuchsia Brandon Maxwell cape and delivering a carefully choreographed routine with her umbrella-wielding train-carriers before taking off the robe to reveal an asymmetrical sculptural black gown. She then lost the second look, uncovering a hot pink sheath, which she ultimately took off to conclude the fashion show in a bedazzled black bra and fishnets. So, you know, just another elegant and understated first Monday in May.
The “Stupid Love” music video, February 2020
In the first video from Gaga’s Chromatica era, in which she and the “Kindness Punks” fight for peace in a dystopian future, she picked one spot on the color wheel and stuck to it, cycling through a series of futuristic pink looks with a matching wig. The selection follows her last high-profile fashion outing, her hot pink 2019 Met Gala appearance, and an awards season characterized by a major resurgence of the feminine shade. If anyone could confirm that pink is punk and it’s back in a big way, it’s Lady Gaga.