The 35 Most Iconic On-Stage Looks Of All Time

What makes an outfit "iconic"? Surely there's a philosophical debate to be had on that subject, but we think it all boils down to one basic concept: what we remember. Every so often, a performer takes the stage and blows an audience to pieces — not just with their musical prowess, but with an outfit that will henceforth be burned into our collective consciousness.
We're talking about career-making ensembles, the ones that sear a musician's image into our memory for years to come. These looks cover as broad a spectrum as music itself: the flashy to the subdued, the sparkly to the vampy, the sculptural to the very, very fitted. For some celebrities, the standout look might err on the side of infamy — let's not forget Twerkgate 2013. But, for every childhood-ruining teddy bear bodice, there's one dotted by fist-sized candy buttons; each reptilian accessory is matched (raised, even) by a gravity-defying bubble sculpture. And, in these cases, you can't separate the look from the artist.
While this selection is by no means exhaustive (many of the musicians featured have too many looks to choose from), we want to celebrate those impressive get-ups that were as momentous — if not more so — than the performances for which they were worn.
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Photo: Kevin Kane/Getty Images
Britney Spears
The year was 2001. Britney was at the top of her game. To illustrate exactly where she fell on the girl-vs.-woman spectrum, she brought a LIVE SNAKE with her onstage during her MTV VMA performance. Also, abs.
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Photo: John Roca/REX USA.
That Gaultier corset? Duh.
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Photo: Christina Radish/Getty Images.
Shakira was truth-telling with her hips long before she released a certain song to that effect. Red leather pants and a spangled belly-dancer belt made for a particularly heady dose of truth serum.
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Photo: Dezo Hoffmann/REX USA.
The Supremes
The Supremes set the ground rules for group outfit coordination.
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Spice Girls
They had not one, but FIVE different styles to emulate. I always considered myself a Baby Spice with Posh ambitions.
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Photo: KMazur/Getty Images.
Always and forever.
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Photo: Jeffrey Mayer/Getty Images.
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Photo: KMazur/Getty Images.
Missy Elliott
The expert-level coordination between that adidas tracksuit, her furry visor, and those Dirty Jobs-ready Wellies is matched only by the grandeur of Missy's bling. This look is one for the ages.
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Photo: BEImages/Rex USA.
Gwen Stefani
Well before she became (not) your "Hollaback Girl," Gwen spoke to a generation through tube tops and pigtail crowns.
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Photo: Richard Young/REX USA.
Debbie Harry
Aspiring rock stars (and slit-wearers) take note: This Blondie shows us how it's done.
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Photo: Brian Rasic/REX USA.
Amy Winehouse
Amy’s defining feature was, of course, her mile-high beehive. Her pinup dresses and exposed tattoos rounded off a look that'll never be forgotten.
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Photo: Everett Collection/REX USA.
Stevie Nicks
An icon by a landslide; Stevie's witchy style is oft attempted, but never imitated.
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Photo: Rex USA.
Dolly Parton
Sequin cowgirl suits only make sense on one woman. This one.
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Photo: David Fisher/REX USA.
Jennifer Lopez
Jenny from the Block, J.Lo; whatever you call her, she's still the queen of glam.
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Photo: Picture Perfect/REX USA.
Nicki Minaj
As much as we loved her brief foray into natural beauty, classic Nicki Minaj must involve an outlandish wig.
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Photo: REX USA.
Katy Perry
The California Dreams tour was Katy Perry's costume prime. Her looks were candy-coated and whimsical — before Katy entered murkier outfit territory.
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Photo: Brendan Beirne/REX USA.
Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga is arguably the master of the onstage costume. We raise a glass to her, our bottomless font of Halloween inspiration.
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Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images.
Miley Cyrus
We don’t really need to explain this one, do we?
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Photo: Picture Perfect/REX USA.
RiRi's style game is always on point. She has the award to prove it.
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Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images.
Beyoncé is deeper than the sea, more expansive than the universe. So, it's befitting that she wore a figure-hugging jumpsuit for her last solo tour that resembled the night sky — another celestial body possessing a fraction of her shine.
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Photo: Michael Tran/Getty Images.
Lorde is where Circe (the sea nymph from Homer's Odyssey) meets art kid meets Kate Bush.
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Photo: Andy Sheppard/Getty Images.
Lana del Rey
It wouldn't be Lana if it wasn't pastel, silky, and nostalgic in some way.
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Photo: Brian Rasic/REX USA.
You thought we were going for the swan look, didn't you? Well, she's taken kooky dressing to the extreme many more times than that.
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Photo: Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images.
Not everyone can pull off a wacky matching set and elevator flatforms...
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Photo: Josh Brasted/Getty Images.
Kate Nash
...but Kate can, and she's raised Robyn an eyeball bustier and matching cape.
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Photo: David Parker/REX USA.
Grace Jones
Bodice. Shell crown. Power pose. We can almost hear Jones belting it out.
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Photo: Gary Miller/Getty Images.
Yolandi Visser Of Die Antwoord
Anyone who can make sweats feel as subversive as bondage wear deserves snaps. Yolandi also made us pause and consider the eyebrow-less look for a minute.
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Photo: Sassine/REX USA.
Confusing choreography aside, Sia must be a force if Lena Dunham's copying her haircut.
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Photo: Brian Rasic/REX USA.
Karen O.
Karen O. is the future. Now that we think about it, she may actually be from the future.
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Photo: John Rahim/REX USA.
Florence Welch
One word describes every one of Florence Welch's looks: ethereal.
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Photo: Rob Latour/REX USA.
Janelle Monáe
It's as clear as black-and-white why Janelle's dapper-diva thing works so well.
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Photo: MediaPunch Inc/REX USA.
Though she may be over mixed prints, she'll always be known for working them better than anyone else.
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Photo: Brian Rasic/REX USA.
Azealia Banks
There are many reasons why Azealia Banks needs to release her highly anticipated album already. For one, we're thirsty for more urban-mermaid outfits.
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Photo: Brian Rasic/REX USA.
Iggy Azalea
Even before "Fancy" dominated the charts, Iggy was killing it with her form-fitted onstage looks.
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Photo: MediaPunch Inc/REX USA.
Icona Pop
"Icon" is right there in the group's name, so this choice is a pretty obvious one. So what if we're a little biased?