Picking a red carpet look can’t be easy—from the countless eyes that will see you to making sure you know exactly the statement you want to make. But, some of Hollywood’s biggest heavyweights know how to push the boundaries, often using the red carpet as a means of making a political statement, while others use it to purposely deliver home a point.
But, of course, with those said statements comes its fair share of controversy. Below we’ve rounded up some of the most controversial (both purposeful and unintentional) outfits of all time. Scroll down to read the stories behind each look.
Lady Gaga at the MTV Video Awards, 2010
The Lady Gaga outfit that needs no introduction. The Rain On Me singer’s meat ensemble sparked extreme controversy in the animal rights community when she wore it to the MTV Video Music Awards in 2010. “No matter how beautifully it is presented, flesh from a tortured animal is flesh from a tortured animal,” said PETA president Ingrid Newkirk. “Meat represents bloody violence and suffering, so if that’s the look they were going for, they achieved it.” Gaga explained following the awards ceremony that the dress was a statement about one’s need to fight for what one believes in, and highlighted her distaste for the US military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy.
Scarlett Johansson at the Met Gala, 2018
For the 2018 Met Gala, actress Scarlett Johansson attended the prestigious fashion event in a Marchesa gown – the first celebrity to do so following the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Georgina Chapman, the designer behind the brand, was married to Weinstein and celebrities at the time said the disgraced movie producer would pressure them to wear his then wife’s designs. In a statement to The Cut, Johansson said of her decision, “I wore Marchesa because their clothes make women feel confident and beautiful and it is my pleasure to support a brand created by two incredibly talented and important female designers.”
Katy Perry Performing at the AMA’s, 2013
After performing at the American Music Awards, Katy Perry received criticism for wearing a kimono with many calling it “racist”. One Twitter user wrote, “Loved the cultural authenticity of Katy Perry’s #AMAs performance. She nailed the traditionally ignorant costume of a white pop singer.” She later apologised, saying: “I didn’t know that I did it wrong until I heard people saying that I did it wrong. It takes someone to say, out of compassion, out of love, ‘Hey, this is what the origin is’.”
Miley Cyrus at the VMAs, 2015
No stranger to a controversial get-up, Miley Cyrus opted for a barely-there custom Versace outfit for the VMA’s in 2015. It was not her only outfit that night to cause controversy, wearing several gowns that left little to the imagination.
Julia Roberts at the ‘Notting Hill’ Premiere, 1999
While this sequinned Vivienne Tam dress looked stunning on a then 31-year-old Roberts at the premiere of Notting Hill, when she walked the red carpet and waved to fans images of her hairy underarms quickly caused controversy. Speaking to Busy Phillips on E! talk show Busy Tonight, Roberts reflected on the now-iconic Hollywood moment. She said, “The picture is vivid in my mind, actually, from that moment. I think I just hadn’t really calculated my sleeve length and the waving and how those two things would go together and reveal personal things about me. So it wasn’t so much a statement as it’s just part of the statement I make as a human on the planet for myself.”
Nicki Minaj at the Grammy Awards, 2012
Rapper Nicki Minaj’s outfit at the 2012 Grammy’s was accused of being incredibly offensive, especially her “prop Priest”. Rife with religious symbolism, the performance was a means to introduce Minaj’s alter-ego, Roman Zolanski. Explaining her look and performance, Minaj said the rendition of her songs Roman’s Revenge and Roman Holiday (which included dancing priests, an exorcism and levitation) was just part of a “movie” she was writing.
“You know how people write plays and movies? That’s what I did. I wrote that and I gave the world a tiny little preview of what was to come,” she said at the time. “And so I have to perform it on the set in which it would be in the movie, right?”
Björk at the Oscars, 2001
Björk’s iconic swan dress was the most talked about outfit at the 2001 Oscars, thanks to its “wacky/shock value. The outfit was quickly branded the year’s “fashion faux pas”
Rose McGowan at the MTV VMAs, 1998
When Rose McGowan arrived at the MTV VMA’s in 1998 with then boyfriend Marilyn Manson in nothing but a chains, many people were shocked. The actress later explained the meaning behind her controversial choice, stating: “That was my first public appearance after being sexually assaulted. I was like, ‘Is this what you want?’” McGowan explained in an interview with Dr. Oz. “I’ve never worn something like that before or since. That was a political statement. Of course, there was no Twitter at the time or Instagram, no way to speak for yourself.”
Anne Hathaway at the Oscars, 2013
Actress Anne Hathaway ditched her plans to wear a Valentino gown to the Oscars in 2013 after she found out her Les Misérables co-star Amanda Seyfried was planning on wearing an almost identical dress. To avoid a potential lookalike moment, Hathaway decided to wear this Prada gown (and offended the designers in the process).
On Oscars night in 2018, Hathaway wrote to Instagram: “I had to change my dress last minute and so it looked like my nipples were hard, I had full blown laryngitis and had to sing, and a bunch of corny haters were getting lots of attention from the media for being haters but you know what? It was still the best.”
Selena Gomez at the MTV Movie Awards, 2013
While performing her single Come And Get It at the MTV Movie Awards in 2013, Selena Gomez was called out for cultural appropriation for wearing a Bindi. “Selena should apologise and then she should get acquainted with the basics of world religions,” Hindu statesman Rajan Zed told WENN at the time.
Karlie Kloss at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, 2012
When walking down the Victoria’s Secret runway in 2012, Karlie Kloss was adorned in a feather headdress and traditional Native American patterns. The look quickly drew controversy and Victoria Secret not only apologised, but removed the outfit from its televised broadcast. “I am deeply sorry if what I wore during the VS Show offended anyone. I support VS’s decision to remove the outfit from the broadcast,” Kloss responded.