Fashion Profile: How to Stand Out at the VMAs

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - 12 Street NW

With the last days of summer upon us it was time for the annual MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). Award shows are not only a celebration of the year’s best artists and their achievements, but they are also an opportunity to talk about what so-and-so wore. I will say that the VMAs are not so much about the best dressed. Rather, I suggest that it’s more about who is the most memorable. 

The phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad press,” comes to mind when thinking about the looks. The press and pop culture vultures alike are eager to interpret the deeper meaning of what they are wearing and why. Artists can take this opportunity to tell the world, “This is a bit of who I am.”

We are listening.

In advance of the 2014 show, I strolled down memory lane via Google and refreshed up on the most ridiculous looks. As I marveled, I decided to categorize themes I started to see. Below is my guide to how to stand out at the VMAs should you ever be invited.

Option 1: Show Some Skin

Tried, tested, and true, revealing skin is a strategy used by many. Please take some time to remember Howard Stern and his exposed ass cheeks in yellow satin pants. It was both a bold fashion and, I’m hypothesizing, personal comfort choice. Some choose to layer clothing to regulate their body warmth at events with fluctuating temperatures. Stern took it upon himself to maintain his cool and wore customized pants. I hope his seat was cleaned before he sat down and then again after he left.

Never to disappoint, the ladies seem to indulge us year after year. With too many to review in detail I would like to bring your attention to my standouts. Highlights include Lil’ Kim’s purple pastey and jumpsuit; Cher reliving her 'If I Could Turn Back Time,' music video look in black fishnet and strategically placed electrical tape; and Rose McGowan wearing a chainmail halter dress (can you say repeat, Amber Rose?) more revealing than Rihanna’s recent look at the CFDA’s. I would like to give McGowan a special shoutout as it is no small feat that she upstaged her date Marilyn Manson.

Noteworthy men of past shows include Lenny Kravitz bare-chested tassel wings and All American Rejects glitter shoulders. Shirts, in both instances, were apparently not part of the desired look.

Taking this approach may simply be interpreted as, “I want you to look at my body.” It may also be interpreted, “It’s hot in here. I dressed appropriately for the weather.” Or, like Stern, “There’s nothing better than the bandage-like peel of skin off leather.”

Option 2: Coordinate

Likely influenced by Doo Wop and Motown groups of the past, many have coordinated with either their date or their band mates. Be it Slipknot, Destiny’s Child, TLC or the Backstreet Boys, overt coordination is sure to land you on a list. It seems to me that you pick a colour or two and then alternate who wears what. Yuck. Boring. Geriatric. Some chose to be subtler than others. Justin Bieber and Usher donned black leather to show their affiliation years back. The next year, Bieber again chose black to coordinate with his date’s, Selena Gomez, look. Or maybe he just likes to wear black?

This approach is sure to communicate support and togetherness of your counterpart(s). It also communicates to me that you are unoriginal and need a new stylist.

Option 3: Include a Prop

Be it Britney Spears’ boa constrictor or Katy Perry’s hats, including an outlandish prop will be a fast track to getting photographic press. (As an aside, I will not call those hats fashion. She wore them like a prop so a prop they are.)

If snakes and hats aren’t enough, one could be like Nicki Minaj and appear to create an outfit simply by crazy gluing a bunch of teddy bears and bows together. Back on the more practical side of props Jessie J has worked in bedazzled canes as to help her move around in her also tricked-out foot cast. She proves that medical setbacks can be inspiration for a fresh style approach.

Simply put, a prop is a friend. What it tells others is, “I need this to feel complete in my look.” It’s the cherry on top of an outfit ice cream.

Option 4: Make a Statement

Not wanting to miss an opportunity, Macy Gray has prompted the release of her imminent album creating a conversation around questioning tact. Lady Gaga donned meat as a dress asking others to consider her as a person and not just a piece (of meat?). Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas wore a Barack Obama t-shirt in support of his political campaign and a nod to progress in race relations in the USA.

Others made a statement with their actions. Google “Britney and Madonna kiss” for a refresher (sadly, Christina Aguilera was mostly left out). If the “Like a Virgin” mashup wasn’t provocative enough for viewers the ladies were etched into pop culture permanently with the quick touch of some lips. Without that kiss their clothing would not be as memorable. But who now can forget the black and white get ups of the three?

Speaking of Britney, this year while Minaj performed ‘Anaconda’ all I could think of was Spears' better snake themed performance in the past. And as soon as I saw Katy Perry’s homage to Britney and Justin’s denim look, it made me miss her. Spears is always good for fashion debate. 

A final example to illustrate comes from this year. As Beyoncé performed her banging medley in advance of receiving her Vanguard Award, all I could think of was, “She owns live performance right now. And maybe me." Wow, to that jewel body suit.

Reining it in, this strategy is intended for those wanting to say something and have others say something in response. It’s a, “Hey, tell me what you think of this?” type of thing. Perhaps it’s back to the, “All press is good press,” point of view.

Option 5: Gender Bend

Comedian Andy Dick playfully teased female pop stars in his pink dress, pigtails and roller skates in the height of female pop princesses in years past. Seemingly always keen to illicit a response a few years ago Gaga suited up and stayed in her male alter ego character throughout her schtick. I must say it was a rather subdued look for the usually flamboyant artist. 

Digging deeper into the archives, I was reminded of Dennis Rodman’s sparkle tank and belly chain. Enough said.

Wearing clothes intended for the opposite sex tells me that you are eager to explore and do that exploration very publically. It taunts the viewer, “Go ahead, try and figure me out.”

Bonus Option: Mix the Above

Miley Cyrus should get noted for her mixed approach. Last year she notoriously showed some skin and wore a teddy bear costume in her performance. Other criticisms aside, unbalanced and unfair in my opinion, I think the statement can be surmised as, “I am not Hannah Montana anymore.” 

LMFAO has pushed their pro-party ways through their borderline costume outfits and explicit sexual references in text right on their clothing. “I’m sexy and I know it” is noted by all.

I suggest this option tells your audience is that you have a lot to say and you can’t get it down just to one message. You are just bubbling over. The viewer is left with a feeling of, “WTF was all that about?” It is interesting what the power of lingering questions can have on an audience.

With the tips above you’ll be sure to get on the most memorable list. Whether you show some skin, include a prop or any combination of the above, you too may end up on the ‘Most talked about’ list.  

Should you, too, want to stroll down memory lane, here were some gems that I viewed.



E Online

What was your favourite 2014 look?