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.
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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.
Madonna
That Gaultier corset? Duh.
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Photo: Christina Radish/Getty Images.
Shakira
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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Photo: ITV/REX USA.
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.
TLC
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.
Rihanna
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
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
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.
Björk
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.
Robyn
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.
Sia
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.
Solange
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?
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