Over the past few years, the world of fashion has served as a canvas for political and social statements to be drawn on. With time progressing, so has the confidence to discuss more challenging ideas through the stage that fashion presents. Although some have been heavily criticized by the rest of the world, the looks have succeeded in engaging a conversation.
These conversations are given a platform to project their ideas from the red carpet world, which reaches mass engagement of the public as you are about to see. Here are my top five most controversial looks of the 2000s.
1) Lady Gaga’s meat phenomenon
In 2010, Lady Gaga baffled us with a dress made completely out of 23 kilograms of rib and steak meat at the MTV VMAS. Taking inspiration from the original creator of the meat dress Jana Sterbak, who created the dress in 1911, Gaga wanted to build on her previous acts of activism. Whilst at a first glance it appeared that she was just wearing a collection of meat, if you looked deeper into her outfit you would see Gaga was making reference to her speech called ‘The Great Rib of America’ . In this speech she details the disgust she has behind the ”don’t ask don’t tell” policy within the military field. Emphasizing the fact that this rhetoric disregards ”the best cut of meat available”, referring to gay and lesbian military soldiers.
Redesigned by Franc Fernandez, the dress gained a lot of backlash from vegetarians and vegans who misinterpreted the outfit and believed that her actions were wrong. Whilst this created negative headlines in general, it got people talking, which is all Gaga wanted. It made people look deeper into the reasons why she chose to wear the dress, with matching shoes, leading them onto the policy of extreme discrimination.
The outfit met it’s desired aim, within two months of the meat dress fiscal Barrack Obama had reversed the policy. This meant that soldiers who were anything other than straight became more represented and discussed in the military world.
2) Indya Moore’s touching tribute
At the Daily Front Row Fashion Media Awards in 2019, Indya Moore debuted a stunning red Oscar de la Renta gown embodied with golden threads throughout. The dress itself was nothing unexpected at an awards show. But it was not the dress that caused people to talk, instead the earrings and frame they chose to accessorize with.
Originally designed as a memoir to their late godmother, Indya worked with Areeayl Yoseefaw to design a 16-pieced set of earrings. Each frame was filled with a picture of a different transgender women of colour who had been killed that year. By doing this, Moore said she was ”giving a voice to those who no longer had one”. With their stylist Ian Bradley, they revealed just how pressing the issue was, when three days before the event when the earrings were made, another young girl was killed. This young girl, Bailey Reeves was just 17 years old and to pay tribute to her, Moore carried a frame in front of her bag. Accompanied by the 16 victims in their ears, and the 17th in their hands they accepted their award, making sure emphasis was paid on the unfortunate victims who were killed for being who they are.
This is a powerful message which got many people talking through social media, consequently raising awareness of the severity of discrimination and around how unsafe life is as a trans person of colour, due to other members of society.
3) #METOO takes on the Golden Globes
At the 2018 Golden Globes, the majority of female attendees made the decision to dress in all black, consequently giving the illusion of a blackout. The idea was to draw attention to the Time’s Up campaign, which generates protests of sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse. Celebrities including Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon and Sarah Jessica Parker were at the forefront of the media for campaigning against these measures, showing their unity on dismantling these ideas.
Meryl Streep quoted that the initial idea was to resemble ”a black line”, something that never ends and presents that metaphorical line that members of society cross when committing harassment. As well as this, many celebrities brought powerful women to the event as their plus ones- Michelle Williams brought Tarana Burke, who was the creator of the #metoo movement, to see her work in action.
Whilst their united bold fashion choices made a striking statement, many award winners made comment on their acceptance of awards to empower women and present their unity together. Although the colour of dresses was the ultimate fixation, this protest caught a lot of wind from the media and got a lot of people talking and taking the protest into their own hands.
4) Johnathan Van Ness 2018
Johnathan Van Ness, famous for their involvement on the hit show ‘Queer Eye’, sent the media into a frenzy during the 2018 Creative Arts Emmy awards. He decided to wear two outfits- one powerful white suit and a black dress, the latter made headline news. Wearing a dress designed by French fashion firm Maison Margiela, Johnathan attracted all of the attention with their traditionally feminine look. The dress was compromised of an entirely mesh black tinted top, with a heavily embellished skirt, accompanied by a high-rise leg slit. Their hair was also styled in a half-up half down manner to complement the simple mesh top.
The reason this outfit in particular gained a lot of attention was due to the lack of gender fluidity representation on the red carpet. Johnathan brought this representation, which received both praise and backlash, but he continued to respond in his true authentic form, with boyfriend Wilco Froneman. This look made a firm political statement by breaking traditional gender norms, and since then they have continued to express themselves in whatever fashion fits them best.
5) Joy Villa’s wall
Actor and singer Joy Villa has been anything but silent in her support of ex-United States president Donald Trump. Showing her support at numerous different award shows through her politically engaging outfits. In the past, she has worn dresses including themes of anti-abortion and ‘Vote Trump’, which got people talking, and discovering her careers in singing and acting.
However, at the 2019 Grammy awards, the singer arrived in a top-skirt combo that at first appeared to be made up of a silver sheet, but was revealed as a white co-ord with black bricks painted all over it. As she turned around to show the back of the outfit, in angry red lettering read ‘Build The Wall’. But it did not stop there. Accompanying the dress was a red handbag that stated ‘Make America Great Again’, barbed wire was featured around her shoulders and metal spikes used as a hair piece. She received backlash for openly supporting Trump, and for making it the personality of her looks at every carpet.
Undoubtedly, these stunts would have lost her some fans by forcing discussion of supporting Trump, but nonetheless she created a source for the discussion to stem from.
From dresses made of meat to barbed wire, this decade’s fashion is everything political. ”The personal is political”, as Carol Hanisch states, and this is something that all of these individuals have worn on their sleeves and incorporated as inspiration into each and everyone of their looks.