The 2020 MTV VMAs are just around the corner, and obviously, this year’s ceremony will be unlike any other. Hosted by the incredible Keke Palmer, the VMAs will be a mostly virtual event due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic — though rest assured, we’re still getting those promised performances from Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and more. One thing we won’t be seeing? The typical red carpet, which in VMAs history has been the backdrop for some of the best, worst, and most over-the-top award show looks of all time. In honor of all the jaw-dropping contraptions that should have been this Sunday, we’re taking a deep dive down memory lane with the craziest VMA looks since 1984 — you know, like that time Lady Gaga showed up wearing pieces of raw meat.
The VMAs are a place to push fashion to new heights and embrace drama on every level. We might not be treated to the same spectacle this year, but the VMAs’ 35-year history gives us plenty to gas over for now. Starting from 1984, here are all the VMAs looks we just couldn’t forget.
A version of this story was originally published in 2020.
The Backstreet Boys, 1998
The whole gang is here — and looking like they got very different memos about that night’s look.
The Backstreet Boys, 2000
— Video Music Awards (@vmas) August 27, 2020
Two years later, the boys are back — and more confused in their fashion than ever.
Jennifer Lopez, 2006
Lil Mama, 2007
This baby-turned-red-carpet look (pacifier and all) is simply not working for us.
This is as close to not-best-dressed as Rihanna looks, and it’s still pretty great — just not quite the style we know and love.
Katy Perry & Miley Cyrus, 2008
Katy Perry’s bedazzled Wonder Woman-esque is just as surprising as Miley Cyrus’ drop-waist look.
Pink’s got her signature hair here, but it looks like her signature style hasn’t yet kicked in.
Lady Gaga, 2010
Lady Gaga, 2010
A leather jacket, leather thigh-high boots, and…well, about as little as one can be wearing without being naked underneath.
Nicki Minaj, 2011
Jennifer Lopez, 2013
Rita Ora, 2016
Stella Maxwell, 2016
Nicki Minaj, 2017
Nicki Minaj, 2018
Nicki Minaj proved long skirts can be revealing too with this sheer tulle number and a high-cut bodysuit.
Lil Nas X, 2019
Lil Nas X may have crushed the charts with unforgettably catchy “Old Town Road,” but we’re ever-so-slightly blinded by this all-red cowboy ensemble.
Lady Gaga, 2020
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) August 30, 2020
“I was wearing face shields before it was a thing,” the 34-year-old said about her 2020 MTV VMAs look.
Kacey Musgraves, 2021
Kacey Musgraves’ feathered headdress was definitely turning heads in this dramatic return to the red carpet.
Justin Bieber, 2021
Just because this wasn’t on the red carpet doesn’t mean we can forgive it. Bieber saw Jason Sudeikis’ hoodie and raised it one ill-fitting pair of jeans and an even worse-fitting blazer.
Before you go, click here to see the most shocking Grammy awards red carpet looks of all time.