A guide to Lady Gaga’s style evolution

From hair-bow heroine to Valentino-clad glamour queen, here's your guide to Mother Monster's ever-evolving looks.

by Tom George
11 March 2020, 1:00pm

It is undeniable that, in the worlds of music, fashion and art, Lady Gaga has been leading the way for the 10+ years she’s been in the spotlight. Since her arrival back in 2008, she has toed the line between high concept artistry and shocking scandal. The New Yorker knows how to make a statement about herself, her fans and the disenfranchised people her music speaks to. Of course, this grounded discourse has always been elevated and given a lick of glamour thanks to her close ties to designers like Alexander McQueen and Donatella Versace throughout the years. Now, nearly five years after her country-spun record Joanne landed, everybody’s favourite pop star is back, armed with the grinding disco track “Stupid Love” and an impending album. As we head into a new Gaga era, here are some of Mother Monster’s most memorable looks.

Lady Gaga 2008 hair bow
Credit: Charles Eshelman/Getty

2008: Hair Bows

It’s 2008 and Minnie Mouse has been found dead in a ditch. The giant hair bow was an early sign that Gaga was going to be a champion for the queer community, taking society’s concepts of conventional beauty and making them campy and ridiculous. As she took to the stage at Good Day New York in a lycra white bodysuit, crystal shoulder piece and signature black-out sunglasses, the stand out piece was that giant kawaii bow, made from the strands of her bleach-blonde wig and held together with industrial levels of hairspray. Her look would inspire Halloween costumes for years to come.

2009 lady gaga vma alexander mcqueen
Credit: Christopher Polk/Getty

2009: The first of many VMA serves

Back in the days when MTV’s Video Music Awards were the go-to place to cause a ruckus -- a scandalous mix of Beyoncé baby reveals and Kanye “Imma let you finish” microphone steals -- Gaga was setting the bar for gag-worthy moments. At her first VMAs, wearing an Alexander McQueen sheer lace dress in cherry-cherry-boom-boom red that ascended into a mask across her face, topped off with a towering, jagged crown, she took to the stage to accept her win for ‘Best New Artist’. She thanked “God and the gays” for her new found success. No, thank you, Gaga!

2010: The Meat Dress

Ask any Boomer who Gaga is and we guarantee they will mention the meat dress. A year of cigarette sunglasses and offending the Pope with some iconic blasphemy was characterised by the notorious moment Gaga accepted her Video Of The Year VMA for “Bad Romance”, wearing an entire outfit made of raw, flank beef steak designed by Franc Fernandez. She sat next to outspoken vegan Ellen DeGeneres and handed her meat bag to Cher (we stan the audacity), but the underlying talking point stemmed from her desire to speaking out against the controversial, anti-LGBT+ legislation, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. “If we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones,” she said.

2011: Jo Calderone

At the beginning of the decade, unsubstantiated tabloid rumours that Gaga was a hermaphrodite were swirling. She took an articulate jab back at them on the cover of Q Magazine with a dildo stuffed down her pants. Later, in true Gaga fashion, she mocked the tabloid vitriol while showing support for the LGBTQ+ community by appearing in drag as her male alter-ego, Jo Calderone. The grease-lightning, cigarette-smoking Italian-American from New Jersey made multiple public appearances in 2011 including playing Gaga’s own love interest in the music video for “Yoü & I”.

Gaga Comme des Garcons dress paparazzi
Credit: Marc Piasecki/Getty

2012: Gaga’s Comme Des Garçons ‘fuck you’ to the press

As the tabloid press labeled her “Porker Face” and speculated that the star had “eaten her meat dress”, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta ended her fat-shamers by walking out to the Parisian paparazzi wearing a trompe l’oeil Comme Des Garçons dress-on-a-dress that drowned out her shape, and mocked the ridiculous body standards that were forced against her. This was the moment we knew we were in the presence of divinity.

2013: ARTPOP

Can your fave hatch out of an egg one moment and then somehow transform her body into a Lego sculpture the next? Of course she can! The ARTPOP album and its subsequent artRAVE tour was a whirlwind of chaotic energy. Gaga toyed with the boundaries between fashion, music and art, collaborating with Jeff Koons, Marina Abramovic and… T.I. (?), taking her craft to a place the world clearly wasn’t quite ready for in 2013. Nowhere is this more clear than in the “Applause” video; a visual minefield of sea-shell bikinis, face-paint, skeleton wings, duvet-couture, reptiles and Gaga’s head superimposed onto a black swan. Gaga was living in the future and us mere mortals just could not keep up.

lady gaga academy awards 2014
Credit: Steve Granitz/Getty

2014: The Academy Awards

Tired of the constant media scrutiny and the criticism directed at her criminally under-appreciated last album, Gaga began to tone down the Gaga. Of course, she still looked amazing. Turning up to The Academy Awards in a Versace pink metallic gown and draping shawl, the Grecian goddess vibes proved that there was nothing Gaga couldn’t pull off -- be it pure, simple elegance or high-concept, camp artistry.

American Horror Story Gaga
Credit: FX

2015: The Countess

Vampires, ghosts and drill-bit dildo demons -- when Gaga was announced to be in the new season of American Horror Story, the Little Monsters were excited. Playing The Countess, a blonde, skinny, rich and a little bit of a bitch vampire who owned a hotel and had orgies with Matt Bomer; we were treated to a ravenous Gaga in high neck velour gowns, silk dresses stained in blood and crystal encrusted gloves with knife-edge nails, perfect for throat cutting. We were gagged.

Gaga Joanne hat 2015
Credit: Jun Sato/Getty

2016: The Joanne Hat

The wide brimmed, millennial pink cowboy hat designed by good friend Gladys Tamez was the defining image for Gaga’s 5th album. As she continued to tone back her aesthetics and performances -- opting to sing about her late aunt Joanne, John Wayne and Pinot Grigio -- Gaga was the epitome of the all-American girl-next-door, swinging her high pony and rocking crop tops and daisy dukes.

2017: Versace at the Super Bowl

Never in the history of sports have the gays been more interested in American Football than when Gaga jumped from the roof of the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas wearing full custom Versace. As she abseiled through the air and sung a medley of her hits for the half-time show, she paid homage to the first decade of her career in a custom, broad shouldered, bodysuit and go-go boots all encrusted with Swarovski crystals, later stripping down into a bejewelled American Football cropped jersey. Needless to say, the fans were well and truly fed.

Gaga venice 2018
Credit: Mondadori Portfolio/Getty

2018: A Star is Born

Remember in 2018, when Gaga tried to make us calling her Lady a thing? Luckily it never caught on, but the year was a big one for our queen regardless. She defied the critics and haters with her leading role in the hit film A Star is Born, proving to all she was not a force to be ignored. As she stepped out at the Venice Film Festival in Valentino Haute Couture, the baby-pink, feathered, off-the-shoulder gown that moved with every step was the perfect show-stopper to celebrate her new household name status. We have flashbacks of her refusing that umbrella in the pouring rain every few hours.

gaga met gala 2019
Credit: Sean Zanni/Getty

2019: Gaga at the Met Gala

When Gaga was announced as a host of the 2019 Met Gala, themed around the concept of camp, we knew our jaws would be on the floor. What we didn’t know is that Gaga would serve not one, not two, not three, but four whole damn looks all within the space of 16 minutes. As she paraded around the pink carpet, she casually stripped off layer after layer revealing a new outfit underneath each time. For all the superfans, there were also references to her past lives -- mini hair-bows and black out sunglasses, an embellished black bra set and deathly heels -- all served with serious Fame Monster energy.

2020: Chromatica

Which brings us to 2020 Gaga. Who is she? In her new song "Stupid Love", we got a taste of Gaga’s new aesthetic as she united warring alien tribes through the power of dance and head-to-toe pink Power Ranger looks. Is this new era going to bring us a monochromatic feast? Is make-up going to play an even bigger role now that she’s launched Haus Labs? Whatever she has planned, expect high-concepts, high-fashion, big statements and a whole lot of scandal.

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Alexander McQueen
Style Evolution
A Star Is Born