Gaga wearing the meat dress at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards
|Material||Raw flank steak|
|On display at||Rock and Roll Hall of Fame|
At the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, American singer Lady Gaga wore a dress made of raw beef, which was commonly referred to by the media as the meat dress. Designed by Franc Fernandez and styled by Nicola Formichetti, the dress was condemned by animal rights groups, and named by Time as the top fashion statement of 2010.
The press speculated on the originality of the meat dress idea, with comparisons made to similar images found in contemporary art and popular culture. As with her other dresses, it was archived, but went on display in 2011 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after being preserved by taxidermists as a type of jerky. Gaga explained following the awards ceremony that the dress was a statement about one's need to fight for what one believes in, and highlighted her distaste for the US military's don't-ask-don't-tell policy.
Gaga was the most nominated artist at 2010's Video Music Awards with a record thirteen nominations, including two nods for Video of the Year (the first female artist to achieve this feat). She arrived in an Alexander McQueen dress and changed into a Giorgio Armani number before donning her third and final outfit of the evening: a dress, hat, boots, and purse made of raw meat. Gaga wore the meat dress to accept her Video of the Year trophy for "Bad Romance"; as she accepted the award from presenter Cher, she joked, "I never thought I'd be asking Cher to hold my meat purse." Gaga continued to wear the dress after the awards show for press photos and an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Gaga explained her interpretation of the dress to DeGeneres, stating, "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 bones." "Now, I love Lady Gaga, but as someone who also loves animals, it was really difficult for me to sit next to Lady Gaga while she was wearing that outfit," DeGeneres, who is vegan, later wrote. "But it did make me ask myself, what's the difference between her outfit and an outfit made of leather?"
Fernandez was approached by fellow designer and stylist Formichetti to produce the dress, with it planned out over the course of a week, Formichetti having styled the look. The dress was asymmetrical, with a cowled-neck. Fernandez specifically chose cuts to ensure that the dress kept well.Flank steak was chosen as the material to use, with the meat coming from his family butcher. The dress required Gaga to be stitched into the outfit backstage.
Fernandez said of his design, "I knew the dress would be one of other amazing pieces Gaga wore that night. It's very well made and looked great on her, on and off camera. We didn't get a chance to have a fitting. The only time she had it on was for the VMAs. Only when I saw it in the monitor did I know it would be big."
Fernandez reporting Gaga's opinion in an interview said that Gaga herself said it smelled good, because it smelled like meat. The designer talked of what was to happen to the dress after the awards show, "The dress will be put in an archive with all of her dresses. The Gaga Archives, I suppose. It won't last, that's the beauty of it. When it is brought out again, hopefully it will be in a retrospective, and it will be a different dress, which is the best thing. I like the idea of it changing and evolving into something else". He later explained that the dress would be preserved and made into a type of jerky before being archived.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame paid $6,000 to taxidermist Sergio Vigilato to preserve the dress. It had been frozen following the two television appearances, although Vigilato discovered signs of decomposition on the dress which had occurred prior to it being frozen, and noted it was emitting an odor once it was defrosted. It was treated with bleach, formaldehyde and detergent to kill any bacteria which had formed, and was reconditioned by being dyed dark red once it was preserved so to give it the same appearance as when first worn. However, after the preservation there were several pieces of beef left over and not included in the reworked dress.
Previously, she had worn a bikini made of meat on the front cover of the Japanese edition of Vogue. It was originally worn by Gaga at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards to accept her award for Video of the Year. Although it was Gaga's third costume change of the evening, the meat dress was immediately described as "most outrageous fashion moment" of the evening.
Fernandez credits the dress with an upturn in his career, saying, "I feel like I have a voice now as an artist and as a designer". He had previously created items for Gaga, including a costume for her music video for "Bad Romance". He went on to create a hat that Gaga wore to the 53rd Grammy Awards in February 2011.
A poll by website MyCelebrityFashion.co.uk placed the dress as the most iconic outfit of 2010, beating Kate Middleton's engagement dress into second place. In summing up 2010 through a series of lists, Time voted the meat dress as its top fashion statement of 2010.
When "Weird Al" Yankovic did a parody of Gaga's "Born This Way", titled "Perform This Way", he included a lyrical reference to the meat dress ("I strap prime rib to my feet / Cover myself with raw meat / I'll bet you've never seen a skirt steak worn this way") and had a dancer dressed in a similar outfit in the music video.
Following the VMAs, media outlets attempted to analyse the meaning of the dress with suggestions by BBC News ranging from anti-fashion, to feminism, aging and decay, and society's attitude towards meat. Chef Fergus Henderson explained this meat attitude as "People often don't want meat to look like meat. They want it to be neatly wrapped in plastic from a supermarket."People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) condemned the dress, releasing a statement that said "wearing a dress made from cuts of dead cows is offensive enough to bring comment, but someone should whisper in her ear that more people are upset by butchery than are impressed by it." The Vegetarian Society also condemned the dress, releasing a statement that said "No matter how beautifully it is presented, flesh from a tortured animal is flesh from a tortured animal. Enough animals die for food and they should not be killed for stunts like this."
Another controversy surrounding the dress was the question of its originality. Brooks Barnes of The New York Times wrote that the dress was "derived" from Incarnation, a painting of a white-haired girl wearing a meat dress by artist Mark Ryden. Sharon Clott of MTV also noted the similarity between Gaga's dress and Ryden's painting. Ryden was reportedly upset that Gaga did not acknowledge that she took inspiration from his work. Some in the art and fashion press remarked on the dress' similarity to Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic, a meat dress made by Canadian sculptor Jana Sterbak in 1987 exhibited to considerable controversy at the National Gallery of Canada in 1991. Karen Rosenberg from The New York Times compared the dress to a series of photographs of Francis Bacon posing with sides of beef attached to his torso like wings in 1952, while The Daily Telegraph compared the dress to the original cover of The Beatles' 1966 album Yesterday and Today, and noted its similarity to the cover of the November 1983 The Undertones album All Wrapped Up, which showed a female model wearing a dress and gloves made of cuts of meat (mostly bacon) held in place with plastic wrap and a sausage necklace. Architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro had also designed a meat dress in 2006. An earlier example of a garment made from meat stitched together in the same way as the Lady Gaga meat dress was worn at the Slade School of Art postgraduate degree exhibition opening in London, England in July 1979, when performance artist Robert Connolly wore a two-piece suit made of slices of salami.
Some media sources proposed that the dress could be interpreted as anti-vegan. Vegetarian singer Morrissey stated that he felt the dress was acceptable as long as it was a social or political statement, and not just a "loony idea", pointing out that artist Linder Sterling had previously worn a meat dress in 1982 to protest against what she believed to be the perception of women by men.Ellen DeGeneres presented Gaga with a bikini made of vegetables when the singer appeared on her talk show, and the singer used the platform to respond to the controversy surrounding the dress saying, "... it has many interpretations. For me this evening, 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. And, I am not a piece of meat." She explained further that she was also using the dress to highlight her distaste for the US military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.