I’ve been grousing for years that awards shows are becoming more conservative overall, and that includes Monday night’s MTV VMAs—which seemed to lean into conservative via host Sebastian Maniscalco, an unfunny comedian and actor in Green Book (of course) who spent part of his boring opening monologue making fun of people who are “triggered” and joking about “safe spaces.” Welcome to 2015! Overall, though, some performances swept away the whiff—Missy Elliott’s characteristically spectacular medley, Lizzo’s fun body-affirmation set, Lil Nas X’s very fun, apparent Backstreet Boys homage. Did the outfits convey a similar sense of fun, or did we get another awards show dud? Let’s check it out.
Above, Lizzo puts ’em on the glass; her look gave us the Supremes in Vegas, Twitter, and old-Hollywood camp glamour. I’m normally no fan of declarative garments but the “SIREN” font felt like she was just making it official. Keke Palmer sparkled into the ’90s with a mock turtleneck gown in a shade of Fool’s Gold and an ancient brick telephone as a prop. Hold the line!
Rosalía’s style is usually flamboyant and unfuckwithable, so this is surprisingly toned-down for her first VMAs, though the flamenco vibes are strong. fka twigs, artistic chameleon, is serving ’30s burlesque, and I can never be mad at a formal look that also approximates pajamas.
We were reminded last night that Missy Elliott loves old-school hip-hop more than basically anyone, and bright flamboyance was a good tribute. Justina Valentine took us back in the day, to 2016; Kash Doll remembered Missy’s friendship with dearly departed icon Aaliyah, who died 18 years ago this week; Monica uncovered my ideal rave formalwear (the extra “L” in “PLUR” stands for the label, Libertine, which took me a moment to unearth); Peppermint is her usual outrageous self in a sheer bodysuit and her own tribute to Lil’ Kim.
Do you not live for an ostrich feather? Blac Chyna and Lil’ Kim live for an ostrich feather. Bold monochromes will always pop on a carpet, but structural elements kick it up a notch—choreographer Maya Taylor’s lampshade frock, Queen Latifah’s duster fringe hem.
Diplo went full Los Angeles approximately six years ago, and I think with this custom Nudie-inspired suit he is trying to say he’s the Gram Parsons of festival dance music? I mean, it works as a look, but where do you go from here? I guess if you’re Lenny Kravitz you just keep doing Lenny Kravitz; I would say “don’t ever change,” but boy, I know that you won’t! Pepa and Taylor Swift each did one of my favorite trends that hopefully still has some life in it, which is the boardroom blazer as a dress in outrageous patterns. CEO, but make it freak.
Bad Bunny has been leaning into industrial goth lately and he deserves this; besides, it’s fall, you can’t wear short-shorts all year. I am here for the Vogue video suiting Marc Jacobs (with husband Charley Defrancisco) is giving us (not pictured: his Wizard of Oz ruby slippers); Tainy’s oversize suit is a reminder that the 2000s are coming right back with a quickness, but it somehow looks fresh and innovative? Apologies to 2003 me. Lil Nas X is always ridin’ ’round shining, here in a splendiferous Prince-goes-to-the Grand Ole Opry look, no less.
I include this moment both to give you a bird’s eye view of Cardi B’s excellent gown, which seems to be made with embroidery floss as the work of a particularly advanced friendship bracelet, but also to preserve the moment she presented idol Missy Elliott, fresh in signature track suit, with her Video Vanguard Award. Remember like five years ago when we still couldn’t seem to have more than one woman rapper at a time in the mainstream? Extremely glad those days are over, let’s keep it that way!
More Cardi, because a woman wearing this thing should not have to stand. Choreographers Sara Bivens and Calvit Hodge are in some of my favorite, casually cool looks of the evening, especially Hodge’s optical illusion triple t-shirt t-shirt. Take me to the Exploratorium! Todrick Hall, recipient of the Taylor Swift award for best friend at the moment, is pleasing in his commitment to NASA. Take me to Space Camp!
Pre Labor Day whites: A$Ap Ferg in Hamptons yacht chic, Camila Cabello in something that looks complicated to put on, James Charles doing strappy asymmetry, and Safaree Samuels and Erica Mena re-announcing via fashion that they are GETTING MARRIED and YOU MUST NOT FORGET IT!
Zara Larsson’s red carpet hosting manner left me confused, but her graphic arrow-through-heart party dress did not. I want it! Trevor Moran tried to give us some sorely lacking red carpet drama, while Treach from Naughty by Nature (with Vin Rock and DJ Kay Gee) is either debuting a new gaming accessory or cosplaying as a hockey-playing superhero. I love it!
Billy Ray Cyrus and Heidi Klum took basic black (oh, haven’t you heard? It’s “back”) but Prince Derek Doll and Remy Ma took it in a goth direction, serving you high drama in feathers and a queen of the eve bustier.
Literally no one else accessorized like Nikita Dragun.
The models giving us MODEL: Adriana Lima in her maillot, musician Alli Fitz stunting in satin, Gigi and Bella Hadid camouflaging each other into/from each other, Hailee Steinfeld in boudoir lace.
Men need more patterns! Ice T, with Coco, gave us a classic ornate bomber; French Montana, with Halsey, hit the leopard with more precision than he identified which Latinx artists have emigrated to the U.S.; Rick Ross flexed the Gucci smoker like the classic rapper he is. (Yes, it is 2019, Rick Ross is getting into old-school territory, I’m sorry but it’s true.)
Normani, aside from having the best video I’ve seen in years, stopped her set last night for a lightly gymnastic breakdown (flips, splits) and here, she’s just like: “I CAN DO ALL THAT SHIT BECAUSE I AM MUSCULAR YOU GUYS.” Respect.
But what about the men? J Balvin is trying to go more industrial along with his friend Bad Bunny, but it seems slightly less effortless; Fetty Wap and Jonas Brothers kept it crisp and classic; Shawn Mendes looks like he is about to shoot an ad for the suit he is wearing. What’s that necklace.
H.E.R. brought the snake, and it works! Juju’s mermaid bodysuit is pretty, but I want to adjust the sleeves a bit; Megan Thee Stallion’s ornate body armor is both 16th Century Dutch painting and 1997 video magic; Veronica Vega is an objet d’art d’capitalism and maybe my favorite look of the night.
As Jonathan Van Ness might say, tonight was a moment, hunny. Hair flip, kisses, yaaaas!