What makes a red carpet look iconic?
A red carpet look becomes iconic when it has a certain uniqueness and individuality that hasn’t been seen before. Stars like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Billy Porter take it up a notch every year with their extravagant looks and continue to wow audiences at the meaning behind and making of the outfits. The designers outdo themselves time and time again with looks ranging from stunning, elegant gowns to outfits made of meat and naked dresses galore.
Red carpet origin
But where does the red carpet originate from? In an interview with BBC Culture, Sonnet Stanfill, Senior Curator at the Victor & Albert museum said “In Renaissance art, red carpets and rugs appeared frequently, usually Oriental and intricately patterned in style, and were seen in paintings of deities, saints and royalty…Red as a colour has long been associated with prestige, royalty and aristocracy.” Celebrities, limousines and the red carpet became linked to Hollywood from the 1960s onwards, becomes a place for people to snap a photo of celebrities for news outlets and ordinary members of the public to catch a glimpse.
Celebrities can take weeks to prepare themselves to be seen on the red carpet and often, the designers have spent months, if not years, ready for their looks to be showcased in from of the world thanks to social media. For the designers, the red carpet is their chance to express themselves through their designs as fashion becomes increasingly more recognised as an art form with the expansion through social media coverage of the events.
From the Met Gala to the Grammys, here are ten of the most iconic looks of the last decade from the start.
2010 – Feeling flesh!
To start the decade, Lady Gaga stole to show at the MTV Video Music Awards by wearing a dress made entirely of meat. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres’, she said the meat dress was tied to her protest against the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. She told Ellen “If we don’t stand up for what we believe in and 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 meat was Argentinian and sourced from designer Franc Fernandez’s ‘go-to butcher.’
2011 – Eggy entrance…
The following year, Lady Gaga turned heads again but this time with her Grammy’s entrance. “I was in there for about 72 hours. It was a very creative experience,” she told Ryan Seacrest in a radio interview. “The creative vessel was helpful for me to stay focused. We had it backstage so that I was able to really stay in this sort of creative, embryonic incubation.”
2015 – Heavy dressing
Going on a couple years, Rihanna made an appearance at the Met Gala in her show-stopping 55-pound yellow cape dress. The designer of the dress, Geo Pei, said it wasn’t specifically made for Rihanna but had been sourced by her team. Pei had an ‘unexpected rise to fame’ because of the look, also known as the ‘omelette dress’ which ‘weighs 25kg, has a 16ft train, features over 50,000 hours’ worth of hand embroidery and took two years to make.’
2015 – Nearly nude?
At the same Met Gala, Beyonce came to steal Rihanna’s thunder with a naked dress. Beyonce has been seen at many Met Galas wearing Givenchy and this year was no different. The dress was sheer and embellished with lots of jewels. This particular event saw a couple other nearly naked celebrities with J-Lo and Kim Kardashian also joining in.
2016 – Sparkling Cinderella
In 2016, Claire Danes had all eyes on her as she wore a stunning LED dress that glowed in the dark. It made the dress look truly magical, as if Cinderella was on the red carpet. Zac Posen was the designer of this wonderful, iconic look. ‘The one-of-a-kind, hand-sewn creation was crafted from organza and fibre optics, which allowed the dress to light up in the dark.’
2018 – Wearing the rainbow with pride!
Taking the Met Gala red carpet by storm in a striking rainbow cape, Lena Waithe wore Wes Gordon’s creation for Carolina Herrera to represent the LGBT community at the religious image themed event. This was such an iconic moment because the look was so dramatic and impressive whilst also symbolising gay representation. Waithe told Vogue “When I saw the cape in person, I got emotional, not just because it was so stunning, but I knew we would be making a statement.”
2018 – Is that the Pope?
At the very same Met Gala, the stunning Rihanna could be seen taking the religious imagery theme a step further with a pope-inspired dress designed by John Galliano. The mini dress was made white beads and sat under a full skirt with a bishop’s hat. ‘Rihanna’s hat was reminiscent of the papal tiaras worn by popes from the medieval era until the mid-1960s.’
2019 – Back to the 90’s
These last three looks all came through in the same year, making it an iconic year for red carpet looks. At the Grammy’s, Cardi B took us back in time rocking the Thierry Mugler haute couture dress from 1995. This look was iconic because of its beautifully unique style and shape and of course, everyone loves a vintage dress moment.
2019 – A mirror’s image
Jared Leto certainly didn’t turn up to the Met Gala empty-handed…he was carrying his own head. A few runways before the event, Gucci had shocked the world as the models carried replicas of their own heads and Leto’s take on this look certainly didn’t disappoint.
2019 – God of the Sun
Last but certainly not least of the iconic red carpet looks, who could forget Billy Porter’s Met Gala outfit with THAT entrance? He arrived being carried by six men and wore a dazzling gold bodysuit with 10-foot wings and a 24-carat gold headpiece made by The Blonds.