A competitive game of less is more.
It’s a common complaint post-runway show: No real woman would ever wear that. But, really, no real woman would ever wear this:
Obvious costumes aside, this did seem to be the year when skin was very, very in at the MTV Video Music Awards. Like, in a way that makes you wonder why there was a very costly kerfuffle about Janet Jackson’s supposedly unplanned nipple appearance at the Super Bowl just a decade or so ago. (Yeah, that wasn’t cable, but still.) Awards shows have been building toward this for a long time, of course. You could argue it started with Cher and Bob Mackie—think of the sparkly sheer body-hugging (and body-baring) creations the designer made for the singer at the 1974 Met Gala, or the Oscars in 1986 and 1988 (just to name a few).
And then there was J. Lo’s famous décolletage at the 2000 Grammys, Angelina’s leg at the 2012 Oscars, and even more examples at prior VMAs: Remember Rose McGowan’s booty-exposing slip at the 1998 awards and Lil’ Kim’s nipple sticker at the ’99 show? (Among others.)
The VMAs have a history of funky and informal fashion—think leopard-print jackets, Harley Davidson tees, shirts that look like TV static, ballerina workout gear.
But this seemed like the year in which everyone collectively decided that the ratio of clothing to bare skin must be very, very low. It was not quite a naked party, but almost. A few categories:
The Naked Dress
(See the evolution of this look here.)
The Upscale Bordello Look
Underwear as Outwear
As Vanessa Friedman put it in the Times this morning, the looks we saw—on Miley Cyrus, for instance—were so unlike the typical offerings from designers (Versace, in Cyrus’ case) that she’d “never have guessed the designer if I hadn’t received an email from its office claiming credit.” (Of course, there were several slightly more subdued and excellent looks—see our Best Dressed list.)
Awards show fashion seems less and less about fashion and more and more about creating a moment that will live in infamy, or at least make a splash on social media. And to do that in a very noisy landscape, the (frankly lazy) tactic du jour seems to be: less (or nearly nothing) is more. Music and fashion have always had a close and symbiotic relationship, but with an increasing emphasis on the outlandish, even beyond what fashion typically has to offer, they seem to be diverging.
BY CHLOE SCHAMA