Monday, August 26, 2013

The 2013 VMA Fashion Blog

I don’t normally watch the Video Music Awards, since I am a) way too old, and b) way too square. But I stumbled across the channel right when Miley Cyrus started getting her crazy on and I couldn’t tear myself away. And I saw enough of the good, the bad, and the ugly, fashion-wise, to justify doing a fashion blog today. So here is my take on some of the best and some of the worst of last night’s red carpet fashions. (In alphabetical order.) (Mostly.)

2Chainz was wearing more than two chains, and yet that wasn’t what made this ensemble so atrocious. It’s the VMAs, so the white T-shirt, the huge collection of chunky gold jewelry, even the gold-on-white patterned jacket were all edgy and appropriate. And the black, gold, and white pants came very close to working. But they weren’t quite tight enough to be skinny jeans and yet were too tight to be regular jeans, which landed them in an awkward, bunchy, ill-fitting no man's land. Add to that the splash of white at the top that looked like he was wearing his boxers on the outside, and 2Chainz landed just on the wrong side of the cutting edge of fashion.

Arianne Grande’s dress is cute – but perhaps a bit too cute. If she were the sweet 14- or 15-year-old I thought she was, this dress would have been perfect: sweet, fun, demure, flattering. But at age 20, she needed something less demure, especially at the VMAs. Adding a keyhole cutout or a plunging back, trading the flared skirt for a form-fitting pencil skirt, ditching the dull white pumps for a pair of studded gladiator sandals or fishnet stockings and booties, or even just slicking her hair up into a giant, eyebrow-stretching, tight bun on top of her head would have given her a more edgy, adult style.

As much as I hate the idea of sneakers and jeans on the red carpet, Austin Mahone proved that it can work. The red piping on his black jacket and the tiny patches of red on his half-untied black tennies, his simple but eye-catching belt buckle, and his crisp dark-wash jeans added just enough interest to push him from “grunge” into “fashion.” And the fact that he had clearly shaved and brushed his hair recently set him above many of his fellow attendees.

There is no lack of skin at the VMAs, and Ciara made quite a contribution to that category. This dress came quite close to being a hit, with its strategically placed beading and just enough feathers on the hem to flare without looking like a bird exploded. I even liked the grace of the beaded pattern reaching down over her hands, which reminded me of Indian henna painting. But that single giant teardrop-shaped cutout right below the crotch ruined the entire effect. With Ciara’s figure, she could have worn pretty much anything and still looked stunning, but this dress managed to force me to stare at her crotch, which (hopefully) was not the intended effect.

The group Danity Kane managed to unify four very different looks by using a few commonalities in very different ways. All four outfits were black and/or white, revealed plenty of leg, had long sleeves, and were vintage-inspired. But each look was so completely different! From left to right, we had a 1940s pinup girl bikini topped with a tailored tux jacket; an all-black ensemble with plenty of cleavage, a wide belt, and a 1940s-style peplum over a short pencil skirt; an 80s-inspired square-shouldered, round-necked jacket with a flared asymmetrical hem, parading as a dress; and a 1960s romper with a skinny gold belt and a shawl-collared tailcoat. Sexy without being too revealing, eye-catching without being weird, allowing for individual style but clearly a unified group. Well done, ladies.

When I first saw Ellie Goulding in this dress, I loved it. I LOVED it. The primness of the mock turtleneck and severely squared-off almost-cap sleeves, the sheer simplicity of the lines, the tasteful slit length, the fact that a leotard-style undergarment was clearly being worn rather than more revealing lingerie. But then I looked closer and realized that what I had thought were metal discs were in fact pointed studs. Covering her entire body. And to be honest, I loved it even more once I knew. But I still can’t figure out how on earth she sat down in it. Maybe the leotard underneath is made of Kevlar? I have no idea, I just know that I love this dress.

Like Ciara, Iggy Azalea wore a sheer gown studded with strategically-placed metallic beading. The golden wings and branches reminded me of an American eagle clutching an olive branch, and yet the effect was still feminine and graceful. The color was a bit too close to her slicked-back hair, but her vivid scarlet lips broke the monochromaticism and even gave a subtle nod to the color of the red carpet itself.

One of many dresses with overly demure cuts but overtly sexy styling, details, and fabrics, Katy Perry’s skin-tight, leopard-print dress showed off her gorgeous figure without showing too much of it. The golden leaves across the bodice and the high neck pulled her nicely out of “You Tarzan, me Jane” territory, and the simple sleek hair and shoes kept the look from being too busy.

 Lady Gaga’s red carpet gown was just bizarre enough to suit her style without being totally off the wall. It was a fascinating mix of sharp geometric angles (like the triangular back cutout and angular neckline) and soft draping (like the droopy bow and the flared train). It also made good use of mixed textures, from the smooth matte leather of the bodice and skirt to the shiny openwork of the train to the almost glittery accents at the waist. Say what you will about Gaga, she’s got style.

All I will say about L’il Kim’s outfit is what I said to my husband when I first saw this get-up during the show: Compared to what she usually wears, it’s downright loose-fitting and covered up.


If you’re 8 feet tall and weigh 97 pounds, you can pretty much wear anything and look spectacular. But if you can look like this in a dress like this, this is what you should wear all the time. Heaven knows I would. (By the way, her name is Melanie Iglesias and I have no idea what she’s famous for. Probably for looking like this.)

I will address Miley Cyrus’ fashion sins of later in the evening later in this post. But I actually liked her red carpet outfit. It was kind of Carmen Miranda meets Gidget meets post-makeover Sandy from Grease. I didn’t love her hairstyle, but the choice of simple shoes and minimal accessories worked, as did the bright red lips, and she’s youthful enough that the skintight pants and midriff-baring top were cute instead of slutty. If only she’d continued that theme throughout the evening.

Rita Ora’s gown had potential, but where half of it succeeded, the other half failed. The bodice was lovely, with just enough sparkle and tasteful décolletage, but the sash looked like a fanny pack and sat low enough on her hips to make her look very thick-waisted. And the marabou train would have been better-proportioned had it been about 6 feet shorter. She did top off (bottom off?) her look with fantastic shoes, though.

Robin Thicke and wife Paula Patton both hit the right notes on the red carpet. Thicke’s tux was a contemporary slim cut, its formality relieved by an open collar and lack of cummerbund, vest, or tie. Patton’s gown seemed to be made of strips of video film, a charming tribute to the awards themselves.

 Sarah Hyland appeared to be channeling Wonder Woman in this ruched, gold-trimmed gown. The silhouette was unusual and interesting, but the swaths of gold seemed out of place and poorly fitted, as if they had been added as an afterthought. And her black and gold shoes seemed to belong to a different outfit – or, considering how much sole was sticking out past her toes, perhaps a different person.

When I first saw Selena Gomez in this gown, her hair was draped over the front of her right shoulder, obscuring part of her corset. I thought the black scrolled detailing was a symmetrical V-shaped insert at the neckline, and I loved the gown. The studding running along the slit then up the side seam of the dress, the soft yet structured texture of the fabric, the perfectly matching lips and nails were all lovely details. So I was disappointed at first when she flipped her hair back and I realized how much of the corset was revealed. But the more I looked at it and thought about it, it’s really not that revealing, and when I reminded myself that Selena is 21 and trying to break out of her Disney teen image, I realized that she could have done a lot worse than this dress.

Another example of getting an outfit half-right is Shailene Woodley’s skirt and top. The silky ethnic- print handkerchief skirt is lovely and flattering. But the boring, plain black crop top is a bit reminiscent of an oversized sports bra. Perhaps had it been a dressier fabric, or a brighter color, or incorporated some sequins or beading or SOMETHING to bring it some visual interest and tie it to the style of the skirt, it would have worked. But given those impressive abs and stick-thin legs, my guess is she’s just used to spending a lot of time in the gym where a sports bra is the standard uniform.

As some of the most youthful stars in attendance, Willow and Jaden Smith managed to fit in without sticking out. Willow’s androgynous printed tee, baggy overalls, and nearly makeup-free face were feminized (as if her gender could ever be in doubt with that amazingly beautiful and feminine face) with suede wedge boots and a tiny choker. Jaden channeled his father’s brand of ghetto chic in simple layered black tees, jersey pants, and tennies. Apparently “cool” is genetic, and these two got a double dose.

And finally, Taylor Swift topped the charts with this sleek deep blue column with plunging spangled neckline. Her softly waved hair along with her slender, curvy silhouette and classic makeup all channel old Hollywood glamour. Apparently the show’s producers agreed, since Swift was front and center in about three quarters of the crowd shots during the course of the show.

And since it really wouldn’t be right to publish a fashion blog about the 2013 VMAs without showing Miley and Gaga’s performance outfits, let me close with these images and a few very brief comments. 
Lady Gaga is wearing even less fabric than Miley, yet her costume and her dance enhanced her musical performance, rather than distracting from it. Miley somehow managed to look like an untalented tramp even though she is neither untalented nor (to my knowledge) a tramp. This is the difference between using your sexuality to your advantage and just throwing your sexuality around in the hopes that people will notice. They will, but probably not in a good way. 

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