Auric Goldfinger in the 1964 Goldfinger film would probably take the cake for the most outrageous way of dressing a woman – by painting his lovers from head to toe in gold. However, MTV’s VMA is where you’ll find celebs adorn some of the most outrageous outfits.
Lady Gaga probably leads the pack with her iconic meat dress, while Rose McGowan’s near-nude string outfit challenged her. Let’s look at the MTV VMA red carpet over the years, where participants compete for their music and apparel (or apparent lack of it) too.
Do They Dress Outrageously on Purpose?
There could be many reasons why celebrities choose to dress that way. There are no prizes for guessing that one could be to grab attention. They may want their music to stand out, which is a good way to add some spice.
After all, this is the Oscars of the music industry, and if actors can dress for the occasion, then why not celebs at the MTV VMAs? No matter what, fashion-wise, the event will also have its fair share of drama.
Madonna and Her Angelic Fairy Dress Of 1984
The year is 1984, and Madonna is at the top of the charts. Naturally, MTV featured her for the VMAs, and she turned up wearing, guess what? Yeah, that’s right. She turned up with a great crowning glory of hair done up in curls and topped it with a white lace bustier dress with matching gloves to boot.
It is virginal white for the bad girl, and she shone when the spotlight hit that shimmering, lacey white dress. By today’s standards, she appeared a bit modest.
Cyndi Lauper with Intentional Apparel Malfunction In 1988
If a bra strap, or something else that should be covered, peeps up, people pass it off as a wardrobe malfunction. It is assumed that the slip is unintentional though it may leave some boys google-eyed. It was the other way around with Cyndi Lauper at the 1988 VMAs.
Cyndi Lauper had a voice described as sweet as a child to a whisky-seared husky throatiness spread over four octaves. However, she intentionally shortchanged the short black mini dress she wore to the function, cutting the front well below the bra.
Christina Applegate’s Exquisite Packaging For 1989
Talk about modesty, class, image, and stamina. Christina Applegate perfectly projected the air of innocence, yet she was far from uncomfortable. The whole ensemble was chic, cool, and sophisticated. The lady looks exquisite.
A headscarf with a beautiful floral print against a white background matches her dress that goes below her knees, showing off delectable ankles, leading to lovely feet encased in slip-ons. Yup, the lady sure has oodles of panache.
Kim Basinger Brought the Grease Finale Outfit to Life in 1990
Heads turned and whispered conversations occur when a lady sashays down the carpet. Admittedly Kim Basinger’s outfit for the 1990 VMAs was what you could describe as “modest.” She chose to replicate the Grease finale outfit.
Can’t say if people on the red carpet were exactly stunned, but this sure is a head-turner dress in body-hugging black, and her curves amplified the visual aesthetic. It helps that she has golden blonde hair, perfectly offsetting the black.
Cindy Crawford Showcased the Bondage Versace Look in 1992
Cindy Crawford’s face is so beautiful it could undoubtedly launch a thousand drones today. But way back then, on the 1992 VMA red carpet, she chose to go with a black cutout bondage-inspired Versace look.
By today’s standards, some may say this is a bit meh, but then back in 1992, people thought and acted differently. It shows that this generation today has no idea what that generation was up to or could do. Anyway, her smile in this picture is dazzling enough to rival the spotlight.
Courtney Love and Kurt Kobain Sartorial Dissonance – 1993 VMAs
The happy couple put in one of their final appearances together at the red carpet show. In 1993, the duo, or to be more precise, the trio that included their daughter Frances Bean, showed up wearing what can be termed as sartorial dissonance.
Courtney struck the right note, outfitted in a body-length white sheer dress with no fancy rigging, red lipstick, topped with blonde hair, and her baby Frances Bean at her hip. She mimicked Marilyn Monroe but with none of that bombshell’s oomph factor. Instead, it is elegant simplicity. Compare that to what Kurt wears—pure punk with red shades, and the look on his face says it all.
Sharon Stone Creating Waves at the 1993 VMAs
The Basic Instinct actress is in a class of her own, and she won 10 awards from 41 nominations, including the Golden Globe Award for Casino, which says it all about her. Sharon is an institution – period.
She turned up at the 1993 red carpet wearing a full-length crimson gown, coyly demure but radiantly self-assured that she was special with a capital S. Her red gown swirled and created waves on the red carpet—a mermaid floating on a foam of seafoam. Words fail to do justice! No wonder she was chosen for Catwoman in 2004.
Cindy Crawford Is Back and Again in Black at the 1993 VMAs
You cannot keep a good girl away, especially if she is a beauty like Cindy Crawford. It is 1993, and Cindy Crawford is there again. It appears black is her favorite color. Who are we to judge? Look for yourself.
This time around, the color is black, but Cindy chooses to be inspired by Madonna, wearing a sheer gown down to her ankles with two necklaces, one closely fitting around the neck and the other dangling a great big cross down at her navel.
Drew Barrymore Takes Everyone’s Breath Away at the 1995 VMAs
Drew Barrymore could be termed as the sexiest and most attractive of Charlie’s Angels, and with good reason. She had a look, a beautiful, dimpled smile, and glorious hair. She could easily twirl a guy around her pinkie.
Chiffon, nylon, or silk, the fabric does not matter when Drew flaunts it. She looks ready to take off, totally in black with the body covered in a sheath and “wings” to spread (doubling up, no doubt, as a shoulder covering). Batman, please move aside.
TLC Waterfalls in White at the 1995 VMAs
TLC is known for Waterfalls. Oddly, in their interpretation, the word waterfall means someone pursuing self-destructive ambitions (speaking of which the leader of a certain East European nation comes to mind). Surely he should have listened to their song “don’t go chasing waterfalls” before rushing into another country with all his might.
Back at the 1995 VMAs, the trio of cute enchantresses chose to appear in a white shipwrecked look. They have a certain air of innocence, not hardened and glazed over by exposure to showbiz. Yes, they do look like good girls. Really.
Anything Goes With Sofia Coppola at the 1995 VMAs
Straight hair with highlight tints falling below her shoulders led the eye to what appeared to be a dress that crossed the limits. Sofia Coppola is bold and does not care what people may think. It is about making a personal statement in style.
It is a sheer, nearly transparent, the blue dress barely hiding black panties and a layered white tank top. The embroidered border adds a touch of glitz. Nothing more to say.
Gwyneth Paltrow in Red at the 1996 VMAs
Here is a member of the tribe of the bold and the beautiful walking with ease and confidence at the 1996 VMAs. Red is the color.
It is a traditional suit, but the difference is that it is in red and the material is velvet—soft and slinky. Red shoes highlight the ensemble and glints of copper in the hair, which rounds it off even more effectively.
Mariah Carey at the VMAs in 1997
“I will be there,” she sang, putting all her heart into it. Possibly she might have had the 1997 VMAs in mind – maybe not. Anyway, she was in all her glory with auburn bangs descending below her shoulders. And the dress?
It is black. It is a cutout gown. The slit goes from the floor right up to her hips at the sides. There is a generous portion of the midriff and the upper torso—nothing left to the imagination here.
Rose McGowan Set Hearts Racing in 1998
You have to hand it to this gal. She had the guts and the gumption to appear in an outfit that can mildly be termed as outer space and futuristic, right from the future of Aldous Huxley.
Talk about Devil in the Flesh or Going All the Way or Scream or Charmed. With sequins and very little else to adorn her, Rose certainly was a jawbreaker or, should we say, jaw-dropper at the 1998 VMAs.
No Doubts about Gwen Stefani at the 1998 VMAs
An iconic figure in her own right, Gwen Stefani may be forgiven or lauded for dropping in at the 1998 VMAs dressed in a way that would make you double-take.
Three-inch platform heels. Check. Trousers. Check. But what is this? Is it a skirt? Is it a basket? It looks alien but wow, nonetheless. After that, it is an easy glide up to her blue bikini top and the electric blue hair. “Just a girl.” This is how she may have described her alien looks.
Lil’ Kim, the Sticker Girl, at the 1999 VMAs
Stickers or pasties look good—in the appropriate places, such as when you place a sticker on a box. But this box, known as Lil’ Kim, stuck the pastie on the spot that would have eyeballs popping out. Talk about a deliberate wardrobe malfunction!
The violet hair complements her dazzling see-through dress in the same shade, but what would make the Mask telescope his eyes was the pastie on her nipple of a bared breast. Hey! Have you never seen one before?
Slinky and Hip Gisele Bundchen at the 2000 VMAs
Gisele Bundchen had no intention of going the Lil’ Kim way at the 2000 VMAs. She turned up, nicely attired in a body-hugging sheath in all white, the personification of angelic innocence. Maybe she had few other options, but this was her debut, so she had to get it right.
However, the top to white bottom sheath simply cannot suppress the bubbly, effervescent nature of Gisele, and here she is, joyously radiant to be on The Red Carpet. Victoria’s Secret, Pantene, and Chanel must have been proud of her.
Aaliyah on a Safari at the 2000 VMAs
Trust Aaliyah, the famous late R&B singer, to think up something different to wear for the 2000 VMAs. With killer Looks and an animal-inspired dress adorning her, it is time to go on a hunt. A manhunt, maybe?
The yellow dress leaves her shoulders bare, and the diagonal black strips and fringes of tasseled silk in a transverse hemline show quite a leg. And what a leg! We are boogying.
Voluptuous Jennifer Lopez Does Her Thing at the 2000 VMAs
She is a woman who wears many hats: singer, designer, fashion designer, dancer, producer, and businesswoman. Appropriately, here at the 2000 VMAs, she sports a scarf in white, but that is not all that garnishes this voluptuous beauty.
Jennifer’s makeup imparts a glow to her radiant face, and then she goes off to top it up with a white halter top. Slim slacks follow an exposed midriff. Cool huh? She’s right there, on the floor, or to be precise, the red carpet.
Destiny’s Child Play It Out at the 2001 VMAs
Destiny’s Child romped into 2001’s VMAs wearing striking orange dresses highlighted with blue necklaces and a collar at the front. Sounds simple enough? Take a look. There is more.
What makes the outfit so striking is the long fringes or tassels. Imagine a strong wind blowing or the singers twirling about on stage wearing this dress! Just so you know, it was Tina Knowles, mother of Beyonce, who was responsible for this daring look.
A Double Take at Janet Jackson at the 2001 VMAs
What is this? You could easily do a double-take or even a triple at Janet Jackson’s out-of-this-world outfit to the 2001 VMAs. Here she is, all smiles, with a cap to top it.
What follows is what shocks. A fishnet sort of lacy black dress, almost like lingerie, and patent leather shoes that ride above the knees. Positively, ingloriously, and decadently striking.
Macy Gray Overjoyed to Be at the 2001 VMAs
A whisky-honey with Crème Brule on top voice endeared Macy Gray to millions of fans, and here she is at the 2001 VMAs, her big smile showing just how happy she is to be at this venue.
Her dress is a gown in glossy silky blue topped with contrasting pink upper part with sleeves that reach right below her hands. A nice floral cap tops it. What catches the eye is the bold new ad featured plumb in front of her dress: “My new album drops Sept 18, 2001.”
Britney Spears Redefines the Meaning of Dominatrix in 2002
Men who like to be dominated, please raise their hands and join the “me too” movement. Here is a glowing or, shall we say, dazzling Britney all jazzed up to dominate the 2002 VMAs as far as outfits go.
Britney strides ahead purposefully, wearing what appears to be a leather black dominatrix outfit. The dress is sleeveless with a low cut at the front, highlighted by a vertical row of white buttons. The cherry on the top is the black leather newsboy cap, and at the bottom, there are lace-up pumps. That is not all; Take a look at the hips. Do we have lace here too?
The Crazy Outfit of Paris Hilton at the 2002 VMAs
Talk about memes; this photo should give members a field day. They can go to town once they see what Paris has put on: designed to shock, or shell-shock! It is minimalistic. Maybe it was a hot night, or she wanted to turn the temperature a few degrees.
Here she is in a deep V sleeveless floral pink top with a matching pink handbag, a bare midriff, and a gauzy pink skirt with a slit at the side going up to the hip. Paris, you never claimed to be modest and demure!
The Hot Bird That Is Christina Aguilera at the 2003 VMAs
A bird of paradise is what she is. If her singing is angelic, her outfit at the 2003 VMAs reflects her flights of fancy, and boy, did she pull out all the stops!
Here she is in gorgeous flaming pink with ruffles sprouting all over and around her, covering the vital assets, leaving those slinky arms and legs bare. The hair with wisps and bangs perfectly complements her feathered mini dress and personality: Fly, Robin Fly.
Throwback Time with Gwen Stefani at the 2004 VMAs
It is 2004, and look who just walked in straight from the 1950s. It is none other than Gwen Stefani effectively justifying the statement: gentlemen love blondes. The slim Gwen sports an updo and a red flower in her hair. Naturally, the rest of her follows suit.
She has that typical twin-tone strapless top followed by a slinky skirt without pleats but ending in frou-frou ruffles just below her knees. Stilletto heels compliment her outfit. And the clutch in her hand?
An Enigma Wrapped in Accessories Is What Naomi Campbell Is at the 2004 VMAs
If anyone can catwalk, it’s Naomi, the supermodel. She swept the floor at the 2004 VMA red carpet wearing nothing but a white pleated dress with wings at the top for the shoulder cover and a descending V just below the top.
There was a reason God gave Eve the fig leaf, and there is a reason why women love accessories, as Naomi shows here. The focal point is not the dress but the accessories, which, shall we say, truly make her sparkle.
Old Hollywood Glam for Christina Aguilera in 2006
Three years is a long time, but Christina is back again at the 2006 VMAs, and this time, she does the old Hollywood knockout look with no holds barred.
Here she is, platinum blonde hair done the way actresses of Old Hollywood used to do it. There is more as that plunging sequin gown and diamond necklace show. In one word: Hot.
Hot Pink Rihanna Gives a Glow to the Night Sky in 2007
Rihanna sings well, but she also has a caring and outspoken personality. So, who are we to quibble if she chooses to wear a flaming neon pink full-length strapless gown at the 2007 VMAs? What she does is who she is: lighting up the sky.
She is bold and striking as she strikes a pose here. Oddly enough, the chocolate color of her skin does go so well with the pink. Still, this is more than an eyeful.
Taylor Swift in an Exquisite Sweeping Gown at the 2009 VMAs
A lady-like glamorous look with oodles of style, here is the impression you get when you stare without blinking at Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs. She sports a one-shouldered sequined gown in a neutral shade that nicely aligns with her skin tone.
The brown hairstyle adds to the aura of classic elegance. This is the least you would expect of a top 100 billboard chart star and award winner. You cannot shake it off, and we are not talking about her dress here.
Lady Gaga Hits You Right Between the Eyes at the 2010 VMAs
It is a 0.45 bullet. It hits you smack bang right in between your eyes and floors you. Lady Gaga is only known for her discordant, dissonance-laden sartorial styles. Would you believe it if you were told that her dress is made of actual raw red meat?
That also includes the shoes. The same goes for the hairpiece, but thankfully not for the hair. OMG, this is way too much to take, but then Lady Gaga is a rocket, a missile, and boy does she detonate!
Dog Days Are Over for Florence Welch at the 2010 VMAs
Her songs with her band proved so popular that her dog days were over, and there she was—sashaying down the red carpet at the 2010 VMAs. Florence is dressed just perfectly: nothing outrageous here.
Would you call her Givenchy couture gown outrageous? Not by a long shot. Except that it has a zip going all the way from top to the bottom at the front. We are not saying anything about that.
Encore, Encore, Encore for Cher in 2010
A star who deserves a pedestal in the annals of music surely deserves a comeback. Cher does it with style at the 2010 VMA.
She is with curly hair across her shoulders, but that is not the most striking part. Cher is outfitted in the iconic Bob Mackie outfit straight from the 1980s, and she leaves everyone speechless. Boy, don’t ya mess with me.
Nicki Minaj Steps Straight Out of Manga and Into the 2011 VMAs
Well, not manga exactly, but the avant-garde Harajuku-inspired look. She is an eye-popper and makes no mistake. We wonder how long it took her to put on that outfit.
The Japanese and Koreans have given style a new meaning and look, so Nicki Minaj deserves a round of applause for being so cutely different. Swish, Swish, that’s the way the rapper goes.
Sayonara for Katy Perry at the 2011 VMAs
Not really sayonara, which would be goodbye, but it is used to personify the typical Japanese-American look she adopted for the 2011 VMAs.
Switch on the headlights, and there she is: carrying a typical Japanese umbrella, but everything else about her is as American as it gets, from the purple 50s style hairdo to the dress that stops halfway down the legs. Which dress in its right sense would want to cover up those legs?
It Is Baby Time for Beyoncé in 2011
Beyonce was pregnant at the time she appeared at the 2011 VMAs. The dress she chose was not outrageous but a symphony in harmony with her physical condition, looks, and the state of her mind. She has style.
Beyonce wore a one-shouldered orange full-length dress gown, nicely topped with a rather laid-back hairstyle and minimum jewelry. Can you see the glow on her face?
The Bird of Paradise, Rita Ora, at the 2013 VMAs
Rita Ora faced competition from Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez, but what she wore left the others trailing far behind. The famous singer chose to wear a deep V neck top with full sleeves.
So far, so good, but when you descend, you notice where she differs. Rita put on a train of feathers in blue cascading below and behind her, designed by Alexandre Vauthier Couture. Give her space, ladies.
Amber Rose Stops You Dead in Your Tracks in 2014
This could be Amber’s way of getting back at Kanye when she arrived at the 2014 VMA red carpet. The only thing she wore were silver sequin chains spread discreetly over her body.
As if to ask Kanye what he found so irresistible in Kim Kardashian. “I’m a dream, personality supreme. Next to you, I’m even better.”
Miley Cyrus Over the Top in 2015
This girl has got zing and panache. She outdid herself at the VMAs in terms of looks. Would you just take a look at what she is wearing? Miley is dressed, and yet she is not. Hard to decide.
It is straps that cover up her jewels up top, and then jewels cover her nether regions with a lot of skin showing. Atelier Versace can take the dubious credit for making her a sparkling bimbo.
Blac Chyna and Amber Rose Perfectly Matched at the 2015 VMAs
Blac and Amber decided to make a definitive statement at the 2015 VMAs, and boy, they did it in style. It zipped shut the lips of sl*t shamers.
The duo got called several names by sl*t shamers, and they hit back by printing all these words on matching dresses. Bullseye!
Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly at the 2021 VMAs
Time to jump forward to 2021 and see how the celebrities approach dressing up for the VMAs. A look at Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly, a couple so much in love that others could draw inspiration from them.
The two appeared at the 2021 VMAs in a daring Mugler and Dolce & Gabanna outfit. He is in a shiny red suit, and she is in a near-transparent full-length gown with just a bikini underneath. It’s hot.