We have celebrities to thank for a lot of major fashion trends, both past and present. But for every "win" in the This Is Going To Be Something People Copy column, there's a handful of bold boundary-pushing looks that miss the mark. Some were downright signs of cultural appropriation while others toed the line from being too scandalous to actually kind of cool. Here, 70 star style moments that have inspired debate over the years.
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Joy Villa at the 2019 Grammys
Villa made a name for herself by wearing outfits in support of the Trump administration to red carpet events. Aside from wearing a dress that said "Make America Great Again" to the Grammys, she also wore this one that said "Build the Wall" in 2019. If people thought she was joking or being sarcastic, you can see her pro-MAGA Instagram posts here.
Serena Williams at the French Open in 2018
The tennis star made headlines when she wore a catsuit to French Open, with many praising the athlete for the sporty look. But things took a dramatic turn when The French Tennis Federation president, Bernard Giudicelli, decided to ban the one-piece from future tournaments. Williams, and other celebrities, did not take this news lying down
Melania Trump's Jacket in 2018
For a surprise trip to Texas to visit facilities that housed migrant children, Melania wore this jacket that read, "I Really Don't Care, Do U?" Despite all the speculations that unfolded after she wore this, Melania told ABC News that she wore the outerwear "for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me. And I want to show them that I don't care."
Sharon Stone at the Oscars in 1998
Before high-low became a trend in fashion, there was Sharon Stone. In 1998, the actress wore a white button-up from Gap with a Vera Wang skirt to the Oscars. Media outlets called out this surprising fact in stories and Stone broke all the rules of red carpet dressing in the best possible way.
Kanye West at the White House in 2018
The singer met with President Donald Trump at the White House in 2018 to discuss numerous issues from North Korea to bipolar disorder. West wore the controversial "Make America Great Again" hat and said he felt like a superhero in it. "I love this guy right here," said West after the meeting. His support for Trump has been well-documented and friends like John Legend have chastised the singer for doing so.
Scarlett Johansson at the Met Gala in 2018
Scarlett Johansson was the first major celebrity to wear Marchesa since the Harvey Weinstein scandal. (Georgina Chapman was married to Weinstein, and celebrities had revealed he would pressure them to wear his then wife's creations.) In a statement to the Cut, Johansson said of her decision, "I wore Marchesa because their clothes make women feel confident and beautiful and it is my pleasure to support a brand created by two incredibly talented and important female designers."
Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton's Blood Necklaces
Who could ever forget the duo wearing each other's blood as a symbol of their love? In a 2008 story to Entertainment Weekly, Jolie clarified the sensationalized news, saying, "It was like a flower press. It was like from a slight cut on your finger and you press your fingerprint in. It was kind of a sweet gesture. I thought it was kind of romantic!" There were also no "blood vials" as reported by the media. So then, a prick seems harmless...right?
Ellie Goulding’s Halloween Costume in 2014
Dressing up as a Native American should not be anyone's choice for a costume, ever. The singer received backlash for her outfit, which she captioned "Chief" in a now-deleted Instagram post, from fans who called her racist and insensitive.
Hilary Duff and Jason Walsh in 2016
Another party, another Native American costume. The duo attended a Halloween gathering as a pilgrim and a Native American. Once photos were released, the duo of course got called out for their insensitive outfits. "I am SO sorry to people I offended with my costume. It was not properly thought through and I am truly sorry," Duff wrote on Twitter.
Harry Hamlin as Sid Vicious in 2015
The couple dressed as Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen for the Casamigos tequila Halloween party. Rinna’s husband Harry took things a bit too far for fans when he wore a red tee with a swastika on it. Rinna later took to Instagram to apologize for the incident.
Lizzy Gardiner at the Oscars in 1995
The costume designer outdid herself when she wore this American Express card dress to the Oscars. To create the look, 254 expired cards were used. We have so many questions. Was it heavy? How did she sit down? Did the cards bend? And...why?
Britney Spears' 2001 VMAs Outfit
One of the most iconic and wild moments that ever happened on the VMAs stage (pre-Miley twerk if you will) was Britney in this outfit with a snake for her "Slave 4 U" performance in 2001. The look has since been recreated by everyone for Halloween to themed parties and is 100 percent unforgettable.
Lady Gaga at the 2010 MTV Video Awards
Gaga's meat ensemble sparked extreme controversy in the animal rights community. "No matter how beautifully it is presented, flesh from a tortured animal is flesh from a tortured animal," said PETA president Ingrid Newkirk. "Meat represents bloody violence and suffering, so if that's the look they were going for, they achieved it."
Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake at the 2004 Super Bowl
The infamous half-time moment—which left Janet exposed—sparked a huge controversy, as many people were torn over whether or not the incident was accidental or intentional.
Lady Gaga at London Fashion Week in 2012
The singer offended many in the Muslim community when she walked down the London runway in a burqa. The Atlantic covered the controversy, calling her outfit choice "cultural thievery."
Katy Perry at the 2017 Met Gala
Reactions to Katy's dress included phrases like "cringe-worthy," "baffling," and "ludicrous."
Nas and Kelis at the 2008 Grammy Awards
This sparked a major backlash for pretty obvious reasons.
Katy Perry Performing at the 2013 AMA's
Katy's AMA received major criticism for wearing a kimono. Some were shocked at the "racist" ensemble, and others were totally unsurprised. One Twitter user wrote, "Loved the cultural authenticity of Katy Perry's #AMAs performance. She nailed the traditionally ignorant costume of a white pop singer." She later apologized.
Josephine Baker Performing in 1928 at the Theater des Westens in Berlin
In 1928, this costume was extremely controversial, given that it was in such contrast to the outfits women were expected to wear. Some people credit this controversial costume for transforming American culture, saying she "radically redefined notions of race and gender through style and performance in a way that continues to echo throughout fashion and music today, from Prada to Beyoncé."
Madonna at the 1984 MTV Awards
Before Madonna had really gained her notoriety for testing the limits of fashion, this look for her "Like a Virgin" music video was an extremely hot topic.
Beyoncé in the video for "Hymn for the Weekend"
Beyoncé and Coldplay set their music video for "Hymn for the Weekend" in India and were accused of cultural appropriation, and criticized for an inaccurate portrayal of the country. One Twitter user wrote in response [sic], "i dont even know what to say about this coldplay video except can white rock bands please stop filming holi videos in india, thank you."
Paris Hilton and Nicky Hilton Rothschild at the Tequila Casamigos Halloween Party in 2015
Paris and Nicky were slammed for culturally appropriated Halloween costumes.
Gwyneth Paltrow at the 1999 Academy Awards
Many people thought this dress was "ill-fitting and overly quixotic." Stacy London conveyed this general opinion when she said, "I hated Gwyneth Paltrow's pink Oscar dress."
Heidi Klum and Seal at their 2008 Halloween Party
This extremely elaborate Halloween costume was deemed offensive by some.
Kylie Jenner in 2016
Kylie Jenner was criticized for sporting a du-rag as a fashion accessory.
Miley Cyrus at the 2015 VMAs
Miley Cyrus' performance came under fire when it became clear she didn't get proper licensing from Discount Universe. The brand responded to the performance, "We're obviously distraught."
KTZ at 2015 Fall Fashion Week
KTZ severely offended the Nunavut family after duplicating one of their sacred garments. "These are sacred images that they are using," said one of the family members. "They are breaking the Inuit sacred laws of duplicating someone else's shaman clothing—for profit of all things."
Yeezy Season 1
The fashion world was extremely unimpressed with Kanye West's first debut of his fashion line. One Twitter user wrote,"SERIOUSLY!!! 'The Industry' wouldn't give a flying hoot if a new-on-the-block kid did these types of clothes."
Katy Perry at the 2015 Met Gala
The graffiti featured on this Jeremy Scott gown was accused of plagiarism. NYC street artist Joseph "Rime" Tierney claimed the artwork stole elements from his "Vandal Eyes" mural in Detroit. Tierney's lawsuit read, "Rime is a well-known artist. Defendants Moschino and Jeremy Scott…inexplicably placed Rime's art on their highest-profile apparel without his knowledge or consent."
Junya Watanabe at Paris Fashion Week 2015
Watanabe's collection was slammed for featuring traditional African pieces worn by mostly white models. One Twitter user commented, "How does one have a runway show, showcasing African textiles and silhouettes without including anyone of African descent?"
Prince Harry in 2005
For a "colonials and natives" themed party, Prince Harry chose to dress up as a Nazi, which, as you can see, made front page news.
Miley Cyrus at the 2015 VMAs
The singer wore a barely-there custom Versace outfit, which shocked and confused many.
Mariah Carey at the 2014 BET Awards
Mariah received criticism for her extremely low-cut gown, as people feared a slip was inevitable.
Amber Rose at the 2014 VMAs
Many people were talking about Amber's dress of choice, given how little of it there was.
To Give You The Full Picture, Here's the Back
Katie Price in March 2013
Katie celebrated the fifth anniversary of her clothing line by dressing up in a costume which was called many things including "bizarre."
Karlie Kloss at the 2012 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show
Victoria's Secret was accused of cultural appropriation when it had models walk out on the runway wearing Native American headdresses.
Rihanna at the 2014 CFDAs
Everybody was talking about Rihanna's 2014 naked dress. "I'll probably never get over this look," said one Twitter user.
Christina Aguilera in 2001
As one opinion goes, Christina wore a "combo of shredded peach velvet and what can only be described as a plume of fluff for hair extensions."
Julia Roberts at the 'Notting Hill' Premiere in 1999
Julia received harsh judgement for her unshaven armpits revealed by this dress. (Which, honestly, come on people...)
Madonna at the 2015 Grammy Awards
This look was judged from many angles, one of which reads, "not to say that she didn't look great (seriously, that body will never quit), but her black lace, fringed Givenchy mini put Spanish matadors to mind—well, with a liberal side of dominatrix."
And Here's the Look from the Back
Nicki Minaj at the 2011 Grammy Awards
This outfit left many confused. "On one hand, we commend her use of a theme—leopard print—however, we're not sure how the Bride of Frankenstein-esque pouf fits into all of it."
Lady Gaga at the 2011 Grammy Awards
Many people thought that Gaga in an egg was just simply weird.
Lil' Kim at the 1999 MTV Music Awards
This shocked many people in 1999 before the age of nipple pasties.
Macy Gray in 2001
Macy Grey's self-promotion wasn't very popular.
The Back Wasn't Too Great Either
Nicki Minaj at the 2012 Grammy Awards
Minaj's outfit was accused of being sacrilegious and offensive. There was a pope involved.
Pink at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards
This outfit left many people speechless.
Björk at the 2001 Oscars
Everyone was talking about this dress in 2001 for its "wacky/shock value."
Celine Dion at the 1999 Oscars
This backwards suit received much attention in 1999. Celine herself said, "I was the only one with pants in a backward suit from Galliano and if I would do this today it would work. It was avant-garde at the time."
Cher at the 1986 Oscars
It was not normal to show a lot of skin at the Oscars in 1986, which made Cher's outfit a very hot topic.
Elizabeth Hurley in 1994
This dress grabbed many people's attention as it was seemingly only held together by safety pins.
Gwyneth Paltrow at the 2002 Oscars
Gwyneth received criticism for going braless in this gown. Looking back, she said of the choice, "I should have worn a bra."
Toni Braxton at the 2001 Grammy Awards
At the time, people thought Toni's dress was way too revealing.
Jennifer Lopez at the 2000 Grammy Awards
This bold dress definitely put J.Lo on the map. She even recreated this iconic moment with Versace during the spring 2020 runway show.
Rose McGowan at the 1998 MTV VMAs
Many people were shocked when Rose wore this extremely bold look in 1998.
Cher at the 1988 Oscars
1988 wasn't ready for the naked dress just yet, which made Cher's dress the talk of the town.
Anne Hathaway at the 2013 Oscars
Anne Hathaway was planning on wearing Valentino to the Oscars, but found out her co-star was planning on wearing an almost identical dress. To avoid a potential lookalike situation, Anne decided to wear this Prada gown, and offended the designers in the process.
Selena Gomez at the 2013 MTV Movie Awards
Selena was called out for cultural appropriation for wearing a Bindi. As one writer wrote: "It is not meant to be thrown around loosely for seductive effects or as a fashion accessory aiming at mercantile greed."
Marina Liao is the former fashion news editor at MarieClaire.com, where she covered celebrity style (from Meghan Markle to Katie Holmes), fashion trends, and shopping advice, plus conducted original interviews with industry insiders. She's also had many opportunities to write content in other areas such as beauty, food, tech, and even home. Her previous fashion stints include POPSUGAR and Cosmopolitan.
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