Watching her sashay down the red carpet in showstopping couture gowns, it’s easy to forget that Lady Gaga’s fashion roots are a touch more…avant-garde. Before A Star Is Born and her unlikely best friendship with Tony Bennett, the artist formerly known as Stefani Germanotta was a sartorial wild card. Let’s take a look back at how far she’s come.
Lady Gaga's Fashion Transformation: From Meat Dresses to Couture Gowns
Back in 2007, a brunette Gaga played one of her first major gigs—Chicago’s Lollapalooza. Her outfit? Minimal. She even revealed to WWD that one of her offstage outfits at the festival was so skimpy that she received a public indecency citation.
Significantly more clothed but decidedly less mainstream, Gaga wore this "Ronald McDonald, but make it fashion" look to New York Fashion Week. Around the time of the release of her debut studio album, The Fame Monster, she leaned way into the whole hood and sunglasses inside thing.
Embarking on her Fame Ball tour, Gaga’s style became more streamlined. The sunglasses stayed the same, but they were now joined by blunt bangs and slightly dominatrix-y getups—often in black—a theme she’s still sticking with, ten years later).
Just two months after wrapping up her first tour, Gaga hit the road for her second, The Monster Ball Tour. With ten legs covering 120 North American cities, this was kind of the beginning of the “weird Gaga” era (which isn’t to say her outfits up to this point were standard). Case in point: This corset dress with hair skirt she wore to the MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto.
Wearing the meat dress heard ‘round the world (which has its own Wikipedia page), Gaga managed to anger both animal rights activists and fashion people at the 2010 MTV VMAs. Designed by Franc Fernandez and styled by Nicola Formichetti, Gaga later explained to Ellen DeGeneres that the dress was a statement about the need to fight for what you believe in, and represented her distaste for the U.S. military's don't-ask-don't-tell policy.
Three years after her first Lollapalooza performance, Gaga returned to the festival—this time as a headliner. By this point, Gaga had gotten into the habit of playing the provocateur, wearing a latex nun getup and (as she did frequently in the “Bad Romance” era) x’s taped over her nipples.
Baby, she was born this way? In collaboration with Hussein Chalayan and House of Mugler, Gaga’s gag-worthy entrance to the 2011 Grammys involved the singer being carried down the red carpet in an egg-like pod (complete with oxygen tank).
Call it the year of impossible-to-walk-in shoes: 2012 saw Gaga on tour again, this time promoting her second studio album, Born This Way, with The Born This Way Ball.
See what we mean? This is what she wore at the Tokyo airport, for the record. That’s commitment to your brand.
2013 was an interesting year for Gaga. After the critical and commercial success of Born This Way, she took a slightly unexpected turn with Artpop, her third—and arguably least masterful—album. Mimicking the album’s departure from typical Gaga form, her personal style was similarly all over the place.
Have you ever wondered what it would look like if Helena Bonham Carter worked at Wells Fargo in 1983?
Giving new meaning to the phrase “look, don’t touch,” Gaga stunned onlookers in Paris with this holographic sea urchin dress. (Here’s a video of the look in action.)
There was no shortage of Gaga looks in spring 2014, when the singer embarked on a seven-show residency at NYC’s Roseland Ballroom. In addition to multiple costume changes while performing, her arrival to the show each night served as another opportunity to whip out some mighty memorable looks, like this chic abominable snowman number.
Putting the rose in Roseland Ballroom, here’s another memorable entrance look.
Attending her first Met Gala on the arm of designer Alexander Wang, Gaga’s ensemble was equal parts elegant and edgy. (We can’t wait to see what she wears this May when she serves as one of the event’s cohosts.)
Wearing a more modern version of her patented look from five years earlier, Gaga stepped out in London in pasties and a totally sheer dress, topped off with a Philip Treacy headpiece.
In sharp contrast to her up-tempo, dance-y albums, 2016’s Joanne showcased a more stripped-down Gaga. Her style reflected the change. Though she didn’t ditch the wild silhouettes and sky-high heels for good, she did start to migrate toward more classic, refined sartorial choices, like the va-va-voom, Marilyn Monroe-esque Atelier Versace gown she wore to the Golden Globes.
But that doesn’t mean she abandoned her fashion-forward roots altogether. Instead of those frenetic hodgepodges and statement pieces, though, she opted for a more streamlined—but still dramatic—look. Very Spongebob meets Cookie Monster, if you ask us.
2017 was a big year for pants in Gaga-land. Promoting her documentary, Five Foot Two, at the Toronto film festival, she kept a sleek, otherwise simple all-black look interesting by pairing it with her signature altitudinous heels. (Seriously, though, we’d pay big money to know how she walked in these.)
Performing at the Super Bowl, Gaga wore possibly the most fun pantsuit ever. (She matched it to her eye-shadow color, FYI.)
A (fashion) star is born. Promoting her film with Bradley Cooper, Gaga slipped seamlessly into the role of movie star, with showstopping looks like this feathered frock from Valentino.
Even off the red carpet, the Lady Gaga of 2018 stuck to more classically girly outfits, like this one that makes us feel like we can hear Sex and the City theme music in the distance.
We’re only a month into 2019 and it seems Gaga is picking up where 2018 left off, fashion-wise. But lest you think she’s moved on from her edgy, punk-rock approach to fashion, appreciate the fact that at this month’s Golden Globes, she dyed her hair to match her Valentino gown.
If you were to ask us where Gaga’s fashion star is headed, we’d say you should expect to see more gorgeous, monochromatic, streamlined gowns like this Calvin Klein she wore to the Critics’ Choice Awards as she continues to hit the awards show circuit (and snatch trophies). Onward and upward.