These Celebs Didn't Take The VMA Red-Carpet Legacy Lightly

For a red carpet whose most famous looks have involved purple pasties, a gown made from flesh, and a chandelier loincloth (the last one was just last year), the MTV VMAs are one of few opportunities where, "The fuck you wearing?" can be a compliment. It's a place where big personalities and bigger egos can win you more brownie points than a speech remembering to thank everyone. All things considered, the MTV Video Music Award red carpets are not a place to look "pretty."
All that's to say, tonight is fun, especially for those of who consider the red-carpet part of an awards show just as important as the main event. In a year where the link between fashion and politics, women's rights, social justice, and just plain expression is more obvious than ever, the bar's been raised to its highest yet.

Click through to see the stars that delivered. (And for the musicians, celebs, and artists who did go the pretty route — we wish them well and hope that they got everything they wanted out of that mermaid dress!)
Advertisement
1 of 18
Photo: Nicholas Hunt/FilmMagic.
Teen Wolf star Holland Roden left the “teen” part at home in this head-to-toe white Cushnie et Ochs look that reminds us of Solange Knowles’ wedding ensemble. (Though, how could we forget that, ever?) And it doesn’t look like this year’s red-carpet cape trend is going anywhere.
2 of 18
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
Leave it to a supermodel to make those Off-White O-ring, wide-legged pants you've been thinking of buying all summer look this amazing. Joan Smalls pulled off the ultimate fashion-person move which is to totally ignore the dress code and rely on your own vim to pull it off.
3 of 18
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage.
The internet is split between those who felt that Beyoncé’s massive Gossamer-shaped winged dress was too much and those who thought it was just right. Whatever the case, it’s a gown you won't soon forget (and will probably pop up in at least one of your Halloween parties), which is exactly what you want if you're an up-and-coming designer. The dress is by Francesco Scognamiglio, a new designer who showed as a guest during Couture Week. Now that he's got Bey’s stamp of approval, we should be seeing more of his creations on the red carpet.
4 of 18
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
Gowns are fun and all, but we always give major props to a lady who goes for a short dress on the carpet. Since that very carpet is white here at the VMAs, comedian Sasheer Zamata took the opportunity to wear a ruffled red C/Meo Collective top and skirt that may or may not be an IRL take on that dancer emoji you use too often.
5 of 18
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
The VMAs are typically an event where celebs like Amber Rose take a more-is-more approach (especially considering her SlutWalk-statement jumpsuit from last year), but Rose kept things minimal in a crisp, all-black suit with a single gold chain and exposed bralette detail. Mirrored shades and classic diamond studs finished Muva’s sophisticated look without trying too hard.
Advertisement
6 of 18
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
Australian designers are trending on the white carpet. Singer Tove Lo went for a blazer-dress hybrid by Dion Lee that she described as somewhat of a pillowcase — and we’re into it. Then, instead of heels, she wore a metallic pair of Reebok sneakers, so we know at least one star that won’t have blisters by the end of the night.
7 of 18
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
Thirteen-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis looks regal in this all-white Cinq à Sept dress, complete with layered body chains, lace oxfords, and a ruff Queen Elizabeth would be proud of.
8 of 18
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
Say hello to the two S-words of the VMAs carpet: Sheer and sparkle. Model and body-positivity activist Ashley Graham showed some serious skin in an embroidered floor-length dress that proudly displays the lingerie set underneath, which we’re suspecting might be her own design.
9 of 18
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
MOM!!! For Baddie Winkle, a regular Tuesday afternoon is reason enough to turn up, so we were expecting something spectacular for this red carpet. Yet we were not prepared for the wonder that is this bedazzled number, which looks like Tara Lipinski, Britney in “Toxic,” and those dew drop fairies from Fantasia gave birth to a jumpsuit.
10 of 18
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
If you thought cutouts were over, Nicki Minaj is making a pretty convincing case otherwise. Navy is fresh alternative to the black gowns and ensembles we’re used to seeing on red carpets — and we must say, this is a shockingly elegant choice for the singer. It’s truly a mix of less-is-more and more-is-more for tonight’s show, and Minaj is with the former.
Advertisement
11 of 18
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
We can only imagine all the photographers asking singer Justine Skye to spin upon stepping foot on the VMAs carpet — that colorful Missoni fringe just begs for some movement. This is the kind of rainbow-unicorn amazingness that makes our white-carpet dreams come true.
12 of 18
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage.
You don’t get signed to Beyoncé’s label if you’re not painfully cool. Sister singers Chloe and Halle Bailey are making their presence known in heavily embellished not-matchy-but-coordinating outfits and face jewelry that demands a closer look.
13 of 18
Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images.
Just because a dress ends above the knee doesn’t mean it fades into the background. Lizzo’s deep-green beaded dress with major feather sleeves demands attention. We just hope she doesn’t have to do any table-reaching — those feathers are bound to take a dip.
14 of 18
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
When you’ve committed to a new makeup look, it makes sense that it’d affect the way you dress, too. We love this side of Alicia Keys’ personal style, which is a little less about cliched rocker tropes (read: no more red leather jackets) and more about understated drama (à la a floor-length, palm-print gown).
15 of 18
Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.
Naomi Campbell’s making an early case for the velvet trend that’s sure to take center stage once fall’s in full swing. The round neckline, however, is something we might need a minute to get into. A classic pump is all this supermodel needs to finish off the outfit.
Advertisement
16 of 18
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
High pony: Check. Off-shoulder fringe: Check. Ariana Grande strutted down the carpet in a two-piece set that looks like something you may or may not find at Reformation, but we prefer this fun pants look to some of the more precious prom-appropriate dresses she’s worn in the past.
17 of 18
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
We’re taking note on Tinashe’s silky ensemble for our next black-tie wedding or evening affair. She skipped a dress in favor of a cool-girl matching set, complete with a low-key sexy neckscarf situation. And it looks like we can all skip the tailor, because hemming pants is so last year.
18 of 18
Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
Those 8-inch-tall Marc Jacobs platform heels gave professional models a bit of pause, but leave it to Rita Ora to make it look like no big deal at all. The sheer dress and leather jacket were worn exactly the same way on the runway, which to be honest, isn’t the kind of vote for creativity we typically like to see. But this combination was faultless to begin with — why mess with a good thing?
Advertisement