If you show up to the MTV
Video Music Awards in a simple ball gown, you’re doing it all wrong. Unlike the Academy Awards or Met Gala, the network’s signature awards show is not the place for couture. Instead, it’s a chance for music’s biggest stars to let their freak flags fly, sartorially speaking. And fly they have. Over the years, we’ve seen Lady Gaga come in her now infamous meat dress, Katy Perry pay homage to Britney Spears’s denim gown circa 2001, and Pamela Anderson don a very, very fuzzy pink hat. Then, of course, there has also been plenty of skin, starting with Carmen Electra in 1997, leading all the way up to Miley Cyrus’s metallic moment in 2015 that left little to the imagination. Ahead of Sunday’s awards, we take a look back at the 25 most memorable and outrageous red carpet looks of all time.
As the host of the 2015 VMAs, Cyrus delivered a number of over-the-top looks but the naked dress—or harness, rather—was perhaps the most revealing of all.
Leather Bar Britney showed up at the 2002 VMAs in a slick halter top, lace-up pumps and fingerless lace gloves.
Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson Lee
Long after the 1999 VMAs, Lee’s flasher trench coat and the Baywatch star’s giant fuzzy hat and corset top would become the stuff of fashion legend—and, of course, couples’ Halloween costumes.
The singer, on the heels of the release of “Dirrty,” put a sexy spin on indie sleaze at the 2002 awards.
The rapper’s lavender mermaid body suit with a strategic shell pasty arguably stole the show at the 1999 VMAs.
Kelly Rowland, Beyoncé, and Michelle Williams
Destiny’s Child turned up to the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards in coordinated fringed orange ensembles accented with chunky turquoise jewelry.
From the 2004 MTV VMAs to the Met Gala red carpet, the newly married Jennifer Affleck has never shied away from a floppy hat on the red carpet.
Electra worked her angles in a revealing side-split dress for the 1997 VMAs.
The “London Bridge” singer put a very Fergalicious on British fashion with her Burberry hotpants and top hat at the 2006 VMAs.
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Rose McGowan left nothing to the imagination in a naked dress at the 1998 VMAs.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
The “About Damn Time” singer sounded the alarm in her red-hot Moschino by Jeremy Scott gown emblazoned with the word “SIREN” at the 2019 awards.
Nicki Minaj was ahead of her time in her futuristic metallic corset worn with a Shojono Tomo at the 2011 VMAs held in Los Angeles.
Avril Lavigne and Kelly Osbourne
From the corset top to the low-slung belt and cheeky slogan shirt, every early-aughts sk8ter girl trend was front and present in Avril Lavigne and Kelly Osbourne’s 2003 MTV Video Music Awards show looks.
Macy Gray seized the opportunity for self promotion at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards held in New York City. “My new album drops September 18, 2001” read the front of her dress. On the back? “Buy it.”
Broken foot, but make it fashion. Jessie J made a virtue of her injury at the 2011 MTV VMAs bedazzling her boot and crutches to match her showgirl ensemble.
Gwen Stefani, at the height of her pop-punk princess era,
cited Judy Jetson as the inspiration for her space-age skirt worn with a furry blue bikini top and matching blue hair at the 1998 Video Music Awards.
The Chromatica singer draped herself in Argentinian beef complete with a matching purse and shoes by the designer Franc Fernandez at the 2010 awards.
Sonia Moskowitz/Archive Photos/Getty Images
At the 1984 VMAs, the legendary singer set the pace for good-girl-gone-bad looks on the red carpet.
Charli XCX opted for a literal catsuit for the 2014 awards held in Los Angeles.
At the 2014 VMAs, Perry and the rapper Riff Raff paid tribute to the iconic denim-on-denim looks that Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake once wore to the American Music Awards.
Blac Chyna and Amber Rose
At the 2015 awards, Amber Rose and Blac Chyna coordinated in skin tight emblazoned with misogynistic terms like “slut” and “whore” thus sending a very clear messsage to their haters.
Jared Leto, a longtime member of the
House of Gucci, brought the cinematic flair to the 2017 awards in a grand sequined cape from the Italian luxury brand. Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Halsey’s perfect rainbow part managed to upstage her sheer dress at the 2019 awards.
The “I Don’t Want It All” singer paired her regal embroidered dress from Richard Quinn with a gimp suit from Vex latex at the 2021 VMAs.
Halle Bailey and Chloe Bailey
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
The Bailey sisters both opted for daring ensembles at the 2021 Video Music Awards with Halle channeling the
Fifth Element in a white cut-out gown from Mônot and Chloe taking a surrealist approach topping her voluminous silver Marni dress with a spoon necklace.
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