a guide to j.lo's style evolution
Following the announcement the legendary singer is set to receive the CFDA’s Fashion Icon Award, we look back at some of her most iconic outfits.
To be awarded the Fashion Icon Award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America is to be ushered into the pantheon of the world’s most stylish celebrities, with past recipients ranging from Pharrell to Naomi Campbell to the late Franca Sozzani -- and of course Rihanna, who infamously shut down the ceremony’s red carpet in 2014 wearing a sheer Swarovski crystal-encrusted bodysuit, a bedazzled durag and a faux fur stole. Never forget that Riri once told Vogue that her only regret in life was not adding crystals to the thong she wore underneath. I mean, same.
The accolade is generally given to celebrities who are unafraid to push the limits of red carpet dressing, and while Jennifer Lopez isn’t known for the avant-garde fashion choices of Rihanna, she certainly shares a philosophy of more is more. From the blingy, tight-fitting gowns she favoured when emerging in the 90s as one of Hollywood’s buzziest new actresses, to the green sequinned Valentino cape she wore last year in an issue of InStyle (notably without the matching bra and shorts), Lopez has never been afraid to take sartorial risks.
Here, we round up some of Jenny from the block’s wildest style moments as a reminder of why she deserves the award -- and all the ruffles, reveals and rhinestones she wore along the way.
The Oscars red carpet look that launched her as a style star
All the way back in 1997, when Lopez was just a jobbing actress from the Bronx dreaming of becoming a movie star, she auditioned for the role of a lifetime: a biopic of the Latin pop icon who met a tragic end, Selena. With a fee of a million dollars, the role catapulted her to wealth and stardom, culminating with her debut on the red carpet for the Oscars (she wasn’t nominated, although she did pick up a Golden Globe for her performance that year).
The costumes in the film were faithful to Selena’s fabulously 90s Latina style: think hoop earrings, sequinned flares and crop tops. But for her first major red carpet moment, Lopez managed to channel Selena with her tonged curls and bright red lipstick, while also giving it her own elevated twist, wearing a floor-length Badgley Mischka gown that carried all of the glamour necessary to stake her claim as Hollywood’s newest screen siren.
Given J.Lo’s wildly successful musical career, it’s easy to forget that once upon a time she was best known as an actress: so successful was her burgeoning career in film that when she was offered a record contract, many thought it was a vanity project that would be the death knell for her career. But it was during this time that she first began to experiment with her style, proving that she could play the Hollywood ingenue just as capably as she would later play her role as one of the world’s greatest pop stars.
The Versace dress that changed the internet forever
Of course, no survey of J.Lo’s style could go without mentioning that Versace dress -- even if she recently explained in a Youtube video for the platform’s Moments of Fashion series that this genuinely iconic fashion moment almost never happened at all.
While preparing to make her red carpet debut as a newly-minted singing superstar at the 1999 Grammys, her stylist at the time was reluctant about Lopez wearing the dress as it had already been seen on the red carpet worn by Geri Halliwell. In the end, however, the Versace gown and its dangerously plunging midriff (held in place by a whole lot of double-sided tape, apparently) won out.
The dress caused a sensation and was printed the next day on newspaper front pages across the world, affirming J.Lo’s status as a breakout style icon. It also gained unprecedented traction on the relatively new search engine Google, being downloaded from the Grammys website 642,917 times in 24 hours and prompting its founders to begin developing Google Image search. “I’m just wondering, where’s my cheque?” J.Lo asks in the recently posted YouTube video. Over a decade before the phrase “break the internet” was first coined, J.Lo didn’t just break it: she revolutionised it.
J.Lo did Yeehaw style years before it was a thing
In the early 00s, you couldn’t move without seeing a cowboy hat on the red carpet -- special shout out, of course to Britney and Justin’s matching double denim fiasco at the 2001 American Music Awards -- and while many have attributed this cowboy pop culture moment to Madonna’s era-defining Music, released in 2000, J.Lo was also at the forefront of this questionable trend, rocking the look on multiple occasions.
Even if she’s less into the cowboy vibe these days, Lopez is still partial to a statement hat -- although the less said about this crocheted beret/side pony moment, the better. See her wide-brimmed fedora at the Grammys earlier this year, teamed with a Ralph & Russo dress, or the music video for her latest single, Medicine, where the cowboy hat made a rare return in white. As cowboy-inspired fashion is once again making waves, it’s a pointed reminder from Lopez that she did it first. We doubt the knitted berets will be making a comeback however.
The skin-baring gowns that have become her signature
If J.Lo’s 00s flirtations with oversized hats can be considered her style dark ages, then her newfound passion for barely-there, blinged-out gowns in the following decade can be considered her Renaissance: it’s a well-known fact that Lopez has never met a rhinestone she didn’t like, and there are few others who could pull off the skin-baring confections she’s fond of wearing on the red carpet.
She’s never been afraid to show a bit of stomach: take the iconic video for Jenny From The Block, where she wore head-to-toe Dolce & Gabbana that showed off her rock-hard abs, or the video for Waiting For Tonight in which she appears naked but for a light smattering of crystals. And while we’re on the subject, I’d also like to tip my hat to a personal favourite J.Lo style moment, the video for 2005 banger Get Right, where she pairs a crop top and bumster leather trousers with a fur-trimmed puffa, then later breaks it down in a pair of silver cargo pants by John Galliano for Dior. Iconic.
But where her midriff-baring outfits previously paid tribute to New York street style, she slowly translated this into dramatic red carpet moments. Take this Charbel Zoe Couture (us neither) number she wore to the Billboard Music Awards in 2015: a shimmering symphony of peekaboo moments and carefully placed silver curlicues, surely requiring a very thorough beautician to pull off properly. What’s wrong with showing a bit of skin, after all? If you’ve got it, flaunt it -- and J.Lo has it.
These days, it’s all about full-throttle glamour
As J.Lo’s career has matured, so has her fashion: while she’s still partial to a thigh-split or two, her maximalist tastes have moved into a more sophisticated, regal mode befitting her status as an artist who has managed to stay at the top of her game across 20 years in the business.
She’s become a firm favourite of some of the world’s most opulent designers, from Roberto Cavalli to Elie Saab to Zuhair Murad, but perhaps the most show-stopping moment of the past few years came in December of last year, where she arrived at the premiere of her latest film Second Act wearing an enormous Giambattista Valli couture gown in highlighter pink tulle. It was the perfect summation of Lopez’s updated take on red carpet style, taking her love of high-wattage gowns and giving it a very 2019 twist.
With the news that J.Lo is part of the committee for this year’s Met Gala -- where she will be wearing one of the final dresses created by Atelier Versace’s head designer, Luigi Massi, who tragically passed away earlier this month -- as well as the upcoming CFDA ceremony on June 3, you can be sure she’ll be pulling out all the stops with her red carpet looks. As she enters a new chapter in her ongoing style evolution, you can be sure there will be plenty of epic fashion moments on the horizon from the blingiest dresser in the biz.