Gone are the days of draping one's self in meat for Lady Gaga.
Though her desire to take fashion risks hasn't abated any, the Golden Globe winner has evolved from the days where the pressure for a shock-and-awe moment occurred every time she got dressed. Hence all the times she left the house without pants.
More recently, Gaga has been enjoying a true fashion renaissance, going from haute couture and high fashion to custom costume and retro glamour and back again—and though she could still give a flying fig about convention, the artist has entered the conversation when it comes to serious style.
Not that that happened overnight.
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It's been some time since the infamous meat dress (with matching shoes and fascinator!) moment at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, and now five years since she hatched from an egg at the 2011 Grammy Awards and then showed up at the 2011 VMAs as male alter ego Jo Calderone. So it's not as if her sartorial coming-of-age hasn't been in the works for some time.
Armani was Gaga's sole couture provider at the 2010 Grammys, she's became a face of Versace in 2013, she's an avowed fan of Marc Jacobs (even just walking the runway for him at New York Fashion Week), and she's turned to Balenciaga, Saint Laurent and Gucci time and again.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs
"[I'm not] defined by the same designer or defined by the same hair cut or defined by the same icon," she told Women's Wear Daily in 2013. "The statement is that I'm not one icon. I'm every icon. I'm an icon that is made out of all the colors on the palette at every time. I have no restrictions. No restrictions.
But her collaboration with Tony Bennett on the standards album Cheek to Cheek, the 2015 Grammy winner for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album—followed by her stunning Oscars tribute to The Sound of Music in 2015—definitely coincided with an especial honing of her style. She may have seemingly been toning it down for Tony, but the increased focus on class and classic glamour was part of a greater trend.
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Also now that she's 29, the fewer instances of wacky head gear, feature-masking makeup and lobster-channeling footwear could also be attributed to something as simple as the growing-up process, which tends to include coming into one's own and being increasingly comfortable with one's self. And Lady Gaga's only marked a dozen or so major life milestones over the past year, including getting engaged to longtime love Taylor Kinney, so...
But being the show-woman that she is, it's not as if it was going to be just black pantsuits for days for Gaga. Rather, she has been working with stylist Brandon Maxwell for six years now—and they've evolved together.
Gaga's metallic mermaid gown at the 2015 Grammys was his signature creation, as was her classically styled one-shoulder black gown at the 2015 Emmys. He styled her 2015 Oscars look, that custom white Azzedine Alaia gown paired with showstopping, meme-launching red gloves. Maxwell also designed her Cheek to Cheek Tour wardrobe, a veritable buffet of timeless-with-a-twist looks. And by the time she accepted her Golden Globe for American Horror Story: Hotel in a black Versace off-the-shoulder dress that would have looked at home on Marilyn Monroe, we knew this was a woman on a style mission.
But it's not like experimental Gaga has gone by the wayside. Maxwell also collaborated on her smash-hit Grammys ensemble, a custom Marc Jacobs gown that served as a walking tribute to David Bowie, whom Gaga would pay homage to later in the night (in another Jacobs ensemble).
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"She's been there for me, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and she's having a real moment right now," Maxwell told E! News after his NYFW Tall 2016 show at Manhattan's Monkey Bar, the models hitting the runway and Gaga seated in the front row—her hair still Ziggy-red—less than 24 hours after the Grammys. "And you know what, she deserves it. She deserves that moment. She's an incredibly talented person. she's smart, she's loyal.
"When you see her on TV, as talented as she is, that's as great of a person as she is."
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Moreover, a year after silencing so many skeptics when she solved the problem of who would best pay tribute to Maria, Lady Gaga is headed for the Oscars as a nominee for Best Original Song. She shares the honor with Diane Warren for co-writing "Til It Happens to You" from the documentary The Hunting Ground, about the handling of sexual assault allegations on college campuses and the fight for better treatment of victims—a cause very dear to her heart.
Maxwell remained coy on what to expect from his dear friend and most chameleonic client on the red carpet this Sunday, but we already know we have something special to look forward to.