Although there were a number of genuinely unique looks on the red carpet, there were also a couple of themes that were repeated by two or more stars. I'll start my review with those groups.
Ashley Graham and Rita Ora both wore lace dresses, but with very different accessories and details which made their looks very different. Graham's silvery-grey overlay had a high round neck, long sleeves, and a bit of a train. It was a nice look, but I would have loved a few slight tweaks to the details: her underwear was just a bit too "granny panty" looking. I would have preferred either a higher waist (similar to Baldwin's), slightly higher cut legs, or even full-on boy shorts. Also, the silvery color did not flatter her beautiful dark chestnut hair in the way that a pure black or even a hint of peach in the grey might have. But still, a very nice look.
Ora's outfit was the most outrageous of the three, with its fur-trimmed jacket, curved hem ending in black and red marabou feathers, and giant platform shoes. Her thick eyeliner and severe hairstyle worked with the look to send the message that this is a fierce woman and not to be trifled with. I won't say I loved the look, but it certainly seemed to send the message she intended.
The second "group" I noticed was see-through silver outfits. Beyonce opted for a see-through lace gown with a huge feathered collar rising into "wings", worn over what looked like a nude unitard, and finished with a wide silver-trimmed belt. I loved the way the sleeves ended in a gauntlet style and the careful flare of the skirt which balanced the wings. I disliked the way the shadow called attention to her crotch; a nude underskirt might have been a better choice. But overall, this was a good balance of glamour and outrageousness, so Bey gets a thumbs up from me.
Halsey, on the other hand, gets a thumbs down. Her silver-white, striped, and spangled halter unitard wasn't bad in concept, but the execution left something to be desired. I won't even discuss the visible nipples, but the halter itself was pulled in too narrowly and too low at her collarbones and looked uncomfortable. The patterning on the bodice was pretty, but the angled stripes at her hips which narrowed as they went down the legs made her look wide in the hips and thighs, and the pant legs ending right at her ankle bones needed to be either longer or shorter to avoid making her look stumpy. Her dark hair and makeup were a gorgeous contrast to the silver, and the strappy sandals showing off her foot tattoo were great, but the overall look was not as flattering as it could have been.
And the third in this group, Baddie Winkle (check out her Wiki - she's a hoot!) wore a see-through nude unitard accented with strategically-placed silver and pink spangles with a matching bedazzled cane and white wedge booties decorated with pink and silver stars. She gets my vote for being able to rock this ridiculous look at the age of 88. (Besides, if I diss her, she'll whack me with her cane.)
The next grouping is a look that's been popular at the Oscars off and on for quite some time: the shirtless suit. The classic version is, of course, a stylized tuxedo worn with a partly-closed jacket but no shirt, and with or without a bra. Cassie's take on this look included wide-legged, cuffed gold lame pants brushing the floor and a tailored grey military-style jacket with gold buttons and square shoulders, held partly closed with a tiny gold chain (a wise choice, considering that she opted for no bra), accessorized with a mini-briefcase style handbag and bright yellow hair. Although I appreciate the anime look of the yellow hair, the grey and metallic gold did not work together with it, nor really with each other. But other than the color scheme, I found this look a flattering and different take on the shirtless suit.
Amber Rose kept to the classic black tux, double-breasted with a long shawl collar, wide-legged pants with pointy pumps peeping out underneath, and a black bra with just a hint of lace. Accessorized with mirrored sunglasses, slicked-back white hair, and scarlet lips and nails, this look was classic and striking. A big thumbs up to her.
And finally, Laura Perlongo opted for an extremely casual version of this look, with a olive drab baseball jacket open to reveal most of her breasts and her very pregnant belly, paired with baggy black pegged pants and pointy nude pumps. If you're going to go casual at the VMAs, you need to punch it up with something other than just a lot of skin. This look was much too boring for this event. And if you're going casual when you're super pregnant, take advantage and wear something more comfortable than those shoes (and no bra, ouch!).
The third category I saw multiple examples of was lots of colors! Stella Maxwell and Jeremy Scott, along with Hailee Steinfeld, wore fabulously trippy, 60s-inspired styles in geometric prints. Maxwell wore a mostly red and gold halter and bell-bottoms with a circular mosaic pattern and escort Scott wore a shirtless black tux decorated with native American-looking patterns. The dark and the bright worked well together, and was fun and funky.
Steinfeld's minidress had more of an art deco pattern, heavy on the blues and reds, with a bronze hem and belt. The hem was the perfect length to make her legs look like they went on forever, emphasized by the metallic shoes that both blended with her skin and matched the hem of the dress. A fresh and stylish look that was eye-catching and age-appropriate.
And finally, Justine Sky wore a fabulous multicolored fringed jacket over a bright purple dress paired with hot pink pointy pumps and a glowing smile. Her look was fun and different without looking like she was working too hard at it. Sometimes, simple is better.
My final category, before I go on to review some individual looks, is the one-shouldered dress. There are always a few around at every awards show, but the VMAs had quite a few varied looks that incorporated it. First, and probably my favorite look in this category, was Winnie Harlow. I loved the way her dark bronze wrapped gown carried the diagonal angles throughout the bodice, waist and hips, and even the ribbons of her high-wrapped gladiator sandals. The full, see-through skirt of the dress ended in a neat train and had a thigh-high slit revealing the sandals. I also loved the contrast of her wild, full curls against the more traditional gown - it gives her look just enough of an edge to suit the VMAs.
Taylor Hill's magenta spangled gown with black-edged cutout and ragged, angled hem reminded me of Pebbles Flintstone, a thought which was reinforced by her high, round bun (no bone, sadly). It was a fun look, but not one of the more memorable ones.
Dascha Polanco gets points for trying to blend formal and casual, with her blue satin top cascading into a long, narrow side train over faded, lace-trimmed skinny jeans. I like that she opted for lace-trimmed jeans rather than distressed ones, but her skinny jeans were so skinny that the zipper was visibly straining. And I feel like there needed to be some kind of detail to tie the top and bottom together and unify the outfit - perhaps a matching bit of lace at the shoulder and the bottom of the train, or a few matching satin appliques on the jeans. This look was just too disconnected.
Britney Spears wore a simple but effective one-shouldered black sheath with the sleeve ending in a gauntlet, a long open (but tasteful) slash running from the shoulder to her hip and an asymmetrical hemline, paired with pointy black shoes, long platinum waves, and natural makeup. Britney can go off the rails, sartorially, so this was a good choice for her - unusual without being crazy (which is just how we like our Brit-Brit).
The last look in this group is Sasheer Zamata. Zamata's magenta minidress sported a short but full flounce on the shoulder that matched paired flounces on the hips. Accessorized with a tiny silver belt, small clutch, and cute black shoes, this look was simple, fun, and eye-catching. And a spectacular color on her.
The first individual outfit I want to mention is Kim Kardashian's. I almost put her in the first category with the see-through black lace outfits, but this dress didn't quite fit there, since it wasn't lace and despite being see-through, it didn't reveal her underwear (thank goodness). I suppose it could even have gone in the last category with the one-shouldered gowns, but I opted not to put it there since I'm pretty sure it wasn't meant to be one-shouldered, it had just slid down on one side (as evidenced by the saggy baggy sleeve). The look had other problems, too. I couldn't decide whether there was a strap going between her legs to prevent the skirt riding up or whether the ruching was just incredibly poorly made. And when the neckline of your dress doesn't make a straight line because of all the double-sided tape you need to hold it in place, it's not a good look. At least her shoes were fabulous...
And finally, Joan Smalls showed how effective simple and sleek can be in this copper leather bustier with criss-cross straps paired with wide-legged black trousers accented only with an exposed silver zipper and circle zipper-pull, paired with subtle makeup and long, straight hair. Again, the pants are way too long and the puddle at the hem makes her look ding-toed, but that's the only ding I can find in this look. Sleek, sexy, and spectacular.
So no huge trainwrecks this year...but there's always next year!