I thought it was only fitting to discuss the fashion world-builder of the decade, Lady Gaga. In my last blog post, I talked about how many female artists showcase their musical singles and albums through eras of expression that correlate with their art at the moment. No one has mastered this more than the provocative pop chameleon herself, Lady Gaga. Below, I break down her, “eras” by album and further show how some of this world-building was extended to singles.
“The Fame” was an album about the desire to live through the lens of opulent fantasy. Before it was even released, Gaga stated that she used to, “walk down the street like… a fucking star.” This era of music was about showing the world an artistic representation of what Gaga wanted the public to believe; what we do know now is that she was indeed a star. Often obscuring her face with large sunglasses and keeping an element of mystery, this album was a self-fulling prophecy, and everyone wanted to know who Gaga was. There are clear references in her style to her time spent dancing and singing in clubs of the lower east side of New York. She often portrayed herself as an untouchable alien outcast in the pop world, once ruled by stars who were crafted to be American sweethearts. Gaga pushed the envelope by wearing geometric dresses, disco bras, and referencing artists like Micheal Jackson, Grace Jones, and David Bowie in her styling. She also used objects that are now strongly coordinated with her singles, like the disco stick and iPod sunglasses. This era most strongly defines how we see Gaga; the blonde hair and bangs instantly conjure recognition of her persona.
The Fame Monster
“The Fame Monster” was created and influenced by Gaga’s time spent touring eastern Europe. The album’s songs cover her fears of sex, money, love, addiction, and more. Although in the last era she generally had very tanned skin, in this one she has a very pale complexion paired with bold red lips and heavy brows. This is my favorite Lady Gaga era. I am extremely nostalgic over the vampiric looks used to further the music she was creating. During this time, Gaga only refines and builds upon her craft of world-building around her art. In this era, we see platinum blonde and yellow dyed hair paired with elements of bondage. Gaga, a friend of Alexander McQueen, hones in on the art of appearing both powerful and scary but also sexy at the same time.
Born This Way Era
“Born This Way” was an album with heavy metal and rock influences blended into ’80s pop. This album covers a variety of controversial topics like immigration, feminism, LGBTQ rights, and more through in-your-face visuals. This is an extremely dark era influenced heavily by inspirations and collaborators of Gaga, such as Mugler, Steven Klein, and Nick Knight. The “Born This Way” era is known for prosthetics. Gaga used prosthetic makeup to appear as an alien depicted in the “Born This Way” music video. During this time, Gaga often wore religion-inspired outfits and a number of colored wigs, the most popular of the era being her Cruella de Vil inspired hair mashup and teal colored wigs. Gaga used biker culture as an inspiration for many of the outfits she wears during this time. Although Gaga has always worn high heels, she doubles down on their height and freakish designs. Something I love most about this era is the extreme eye makeup designs. No longer afraid to push pop musical fashion to jarring extremes, this era begins with the now infamous meat dress.
Born This Way
Marry The Night
Edge of Glory
Yoü and I
“ARTPOP” is in all caps for a reason; it’s a hard, colorful EDM album that pulls on a number of cultural references. This era is about avant-garde art, drawing on Picasso, Jeff Koons, Da Vinci, and performance artist Marina Abramovich’s work. As a result, this era is filled with characters and wig transformations. Notably, “ARTPOP” is known for the Aphrodite wig and character, as well as the canvas face paint. It’s one of the most exciting eras in Gaga’s career and one that is given the least amount of credit for her showmanship.
Cheek to Cheek Era
The “Cheek to Cheek” era was one of refinement. It still draws on artists of the past like Cher with the curly wig but also draws on more timeless designs. Singing with someone over double her age, I believe it was important for her to match the significance of collaborating with a legend like Tony Bennett. During this era, she presented the Gaga persona in her wardrobe with her accessories. She wore a lot of studded colored eyebrows along with sequined dresses and large fur coats. True to Gaga’s roots during this time she would wear heavy metal shirts in public when there was nothing being promoted.
The Joanne Era was a complete strip back of the persona of Gaga. This country, pop, rock, and folk album showed the world a toned down Gaga. She wore minimal makeup and traded her heels for boots. There was an over-emphasis on the all-American style with a lot of denim, cowboy hats, and lace. This era was nice to see from a long-term fan’s perspective because Gaga was literally working herself to death but at the same time, I did mourn and miss the extravagance and art she created in past works.
A Star is Born Era
“A Star is Born” was Lady Gaga’s chance to show the world that she was serious about acting and could fit in easily with any other A-list artist. Many of the looks in this era seem to be inspired by old Hollywood glamor. The look she wore to the Oscars is actually inspired by Audrey Hepburn and the diamond necklace that was last around Gaga’s neck was also last worn by the icon. I think this era shows how versatile Gaga is and how far her style evolution has come and can still go.
Met Gala 2019
After this decade what else can Gaga wear? This decade has been filled with outfits that have delighted, horrified, and shocked the public. Gaga said it best, “When you think you know what ‘Lady Gaga’ is I want to remind you that you don’t.” Will she continue down the route of stripped-back minimalism or will she return to the avant-garde pop chameleon that she once was. I for one certainly hope at some point it’s the latter.