When we picture red carpet events – Golden Globes, The Oscars, The Grammys, we think about glitz and glamour. Flashing cameras, celebrities galore, and of course, the designer attire. But, the red carpet is becoming much more than that. From Lady Gaga baring it all at the Met Gala, to Porter’s tuxedo gown, the pair are reinventing the red carpet scene. Such bold entrances are encouraging people across the globe to be unashamedly themselves.
Lady Gaga’s meat dress – MTV Video Music Awards (2010)
One of the most controversial red carpet looks of all time, Gaga’s meat dress certainly caused a lot of beef. But behind the raw flank steak dress and accessories was a much more powerful message. Gaga explained to Ellen that Franc Fernandez’ design was in response to the US military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. A detrimental law against gay rights, Gaga broke glamorous red carpet norms to fight for what she believed in:
“If we don’t stand up for what we believe in, if we don’t fight for our rights, we’ll have as much rights as the meat on our bones.”Lady Gaga, The Ellen DeGeneres Show
Billy Porter’s tuxedo gown – The Oscars (2019)
‘Pose’ star Billy Porter owned his identity and shattered gender stereotypes at the 91st Academy Awards. The custom-made creation by Christian Siriano featured the top half of a tuxedo and the skirt of a black, velvet gown. Pointing out how women can now wear trousers without turning heads but men haven’t reached the same acceptability with dresses, Porter reminds us of the very real presence of toxic masculinity.
“It’s about the acceptance and the honouring of people’s humanity even when you don’t get it or understand it. What we demand is your respect for our humanity.”Billy Porter, speaking to ET Style
Porter is changing the status-quo of red carpet gender norms. Empowered through fashion, the Broadway performer told Vogue that he’d always wanted to wear a ball gown and break expectations of what he ‘should’ look like. Being true to yourself and never having to apologise for it is at the forefront of his message. Replicated numerous times, the tuxedo gown is paving the way for more gender-bending fashion on the red carpet.
Lady Gaga’s four outfit changes on the red carpet – Met Gala (2019)
For the theme of ‘camp’, Gaga was the epitome of extravagance. The first outfit of designer Brandon Maxwell’s magic featured a fuchsia pink dress with a 25-foot train and bow in the same shade. Three outfit changes later saw Gaga defying red carpet conventions. The singer-songwriter posed in a black, sequined lingerie set with fishnets and heeled boots to match. If the brief was exaggerated fashion, she certainly delivered!
“This (the Met Gala) is serious business, but it doesn’t mean you have to be serious. It actually doesn’t mean you have to be anything other than you.”Lady Gaga, behind the scenes with Vogue
By stripping off on the red carpet, Gaga sends powerful messages of both not trying to please anyone but yourself, and of the objectification and sexualisation of women. In her own words, the look was “The biggest **** you of all time”.
Lady Gaga’s ‘vessel’ entrance on the red carpet – Grammy Awards (2011)
In 2011, Lady Gaga was found not strutting but being carried down the red carpet in an egg-like ‘vessel’. Her incubation inside the art form had lasted for three days. Thank goodness for temperature control! Although initially held up by latex-adorned members of Haus of Gaga, the vessel later ‘birthed’ Gaga in her performance of ‘Born This Way’. A third number one single for Gaga, the track encourages listeners to be proud of who they are.
“If you don’t feel entirely happy or secure in who you are, it’s never too late to harness your confidence and say, ‘I was born this way.'”Lady Gaga, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Whilst the plexiglass vessel was the work of Hussein Chalayan, Gaga herself designed the latex outfits for the performance. The birth-like look of the piece was “Meant to signify birthing a new race within humanity”. Lady Gaga hopes that this ‘race’ will be free of judgement and accepting of others.
Perhaps you prefer to see a traditional, glittering ball gown on the red carpet to a popstar head to toe in meat? But whatever your preference, no one can deny the empowering messages both Gaga and Porter are harnessing through fashion. Fighting for the rights of marginalised groups, protesting against gender stereotypes, and encouraging self-confidence and acceptance. Red carpet fashion is travelling in an exciting and progressive direction.