They may not have the musical prestige as the Grammy Awards or the fashion clout of the
Met Gala, but for every burgeoning pop star, attending MTV’s Video Music Awards is a right of passage. In 1984, the ceremony, celebrating the best of the year’s music videos, debuted, led by Madonna performing his hit song “Like A Virgin.” Since, just about every singer trying to make it in the entertainment business has graced the ceremony’s red carpet—which has undergone many new looks of its own over the years—and with it, debuted some looks very indicative of the year at hand. Take, for example, Christina Aguilera’s sheer leopard print camisole circa 1999, or Solange‘s denim mini-skirt in 2001. Ahead of this weekend’s awards, a look back at the world’s most famous singers on the red carpet, then and now.
Arguably the queen of the VMAs, Britney Spears made her first appearance in 1999 in sheer black; 17 years later, she wore a similarly-colored ensemble.
Taylor Swift kicked off her storied VMA history in a blush pink dress in 2008; in 2015, she took home Video of the Year in sequined sweats.
Alicia Keys attended her first VMA’s in 2004 wearing a grecian-inspired gown; last year, she appeared bare-faced.
In 2000, Beyoncé attended the ceremony with her Destiny’s Child band members wearing matching leather looks; last year, she took home “Video of the Year” in a feathered couture gown.
Ariana Grande opted for a sweet floral look for her first VMA red carpet; in 2016, she opted for something a bit more mature, by Alexander Wang.
The picture of pop princess-dom, Christina Aguilera went leopard and sheer for the 1999 ceremony; by 2008, she was fully embracing the glam side of things.
Justin Bieber piled on the accessories for his first ceremony in 2010; in 2015, he opted for a more streamlined look in ripped jeans and a leather jacket.
Ciara attended her first show in 2008 wearing a silver minidress; in 2015, she took a much more fashion-forward approach in a fringed number.
Jared Leto presented at the 2006 awards wearing some serious guyliner and a white skinny scarf; nine years later, despite a new Academy Award, the actor proved he still was into his goth ways.
J.Lo showed up to the 1998 awards in a oversized cream suit and matching hat; the singer’s look for the 2015 awards was far more on par to the Jennifer Lopez we know now.
Kanye West arrived at the 2004 awards in an all-white ensemble; twelve years later, he wore a similar ensemble and arrived with now-wife Kim Kardashian.
Justin Timberlake showed up with the rest of the ‘Nsync gang in a leather jacket; by 2013, he had shifted to his signature fedora.
Katy Perry, who will host this year’s ceremony, crafted her own ensemble for the 2008 awards; at the 2014 awards, she riffed on Britney Spears’s iconic denim gown.
Lady Gaga kicked off her tradition of kooky ensembles in 2009 wearing a feathered look; in 2013, she saved her theatrics for the stage.
In a leather mini and trailing braid, Kesha made her VMA debut in 2010; in 2014, she toned down the look with a pastel gown and matching hair.
Madonna kicked off the inaugural ceremony in 1984; in 2009, she returned in a subdued black suit.
A year before her iconic lavendar catsuit, L’il Kim matched Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez at the 1997 awards; the rapper let her boots do the talking in 2013.
Gwen Stefani attended the 1997 awards with her No Doubt bandmates; in 2014, she was solo and donning shocking pink.
Miley Cyrus arrived at the 2008 awards in a modest metallic dress; in 2015, her look was still metallic but definitely not modest.
Pink, who will receive this year’s Video Vanguard Award, took home her first moon-man in 2001; the singer arrived at the 2012 awards in a metallic gown.
Rihanna was a fresh-faced and little-known singer when she attended the show in 2005; last year, she recieved the Video Vanguard award.
Demi Lovato attended the 2011 awards in a sequined minidress; four years later, she returned wearing a similar ensemble.
Selena Gomez made her VMA debut in 2011 in a high-low black dress; in 2015, she was super sophisticated in navy Calvin Klein.
Solange arrived at the 2001 awards in an ensemble she’d likely not be caught in today; the singer was much more in tune with her current sartorial standard by 2014.