From its inception in 1984, the MTV Video Music Awards has earned itself a reputation that accepts—or encourages, rather—colorful fashion (to put it mildly) on stage and on the red carpet.
This Sunday (Aug. 24) marks the award show's 30th anniversary. That means we've borne witness to three decades' worth of controversial-slash-polarizing looks, from purple pasties (ahem, Lil' Kim) to raw meat (that's you, Lady Gaga). At this point, it'll take a lot to shock us, but as jaded as we are, we can't wait to see what Sunday night has in store for us, fashion-wise.
In short: It's the one night of the year when all the stars can sartorially unleash their creativity. Nothing is too crazy or too wildly "out there" for the VMAs. And we have the proof—we took a look back and pinpointed the most memorable looks from day one with Madonna dressed as a bride during her now-iconic "Like a Virgin" performance to Miley Cyrus’s bizarre bear one-piece (and subsequently, her nude two-piece) last year.
1. Madonna, 1984
Madonna's "Like a Virgin" performance at the very first MTV VMAs takes the cake as one of the most iconic acts in its history. Literally. The singer made an entrance atop a larger-than-life wedding cake, clad in a sexy bustier wedding dress with a veil, a "Boy Toy" belt buckle, and layers of necklaces to boot.
2. Drew Barrymore, 1995
Riding high on the success of 1995's Batman Forever, blonde bombshell Drew Barrymore struck a pose outside New York City's Radio City Music Hall in a black ensemble she designed herself. "Have fun with fashion!" the free-spirited actress has said. "I'm not intimidated by what I see on models. I play with clothes and express myself."
3. TLC, 1995
The beloved trio walked away with a VMA for Video of the Year for their hit single "Waterfalls," but not before striking a pose on the red carpet in their trademark look-matching gunmetal baggy pants (with a Dolce & Gabbana waistband) and crop tops.
4. Gwyneth Paltrow, 1996
The ever-chic Gwyneth Paltrow sparked the menswear trend when she opted for a red velvet tuxedo pantsuit (to match the red carpet, no less) designed by pal Tom Ford for Gucci.
5. Spice Girls, 1997
Sporty, Posh, Scary, Baby, and Ginger Spice! The five-star British pop group took home the 1997 VMA for Best Dance Video for their chart-topper "Wannabe" and performed their hit "Say You'll Be There" on stage, with each outfitted in her signature, now-iconic ensemble. Girl power!
6. Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, 1998
We did a double-take when Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey came on stage in matching Vera Wang dresses. "Nice dress," Carey said. "You look pretty good, too," Houston lightheartedly replied.
7. Lil' Kim, 1999
Lil' Kim bared all at the 1999 VMAs. Well, technically, just one. The rapper pushed boundaries and shocked all when she arrived in a sequined purple jumpsuit, complete with a purple patsy affixed on her left breast (that Diana Ross famously fondled on stage).
8. Britney Spears, 2000
The Princess of Pop caused quite a stir when she performed her hit single "Oops...I Did It Again" (which also received three nominations), tearing off her conservative black suit to provocatively reveal nude second-skin separates.
9. Britney Spears, 2001
And she did it again! Spears amped up the shock factor for the second year in a row when she accessorized with a yellow python snake during her jungle-themed performance of "I'm a Slave 4 U."
10. Britney Spears, Madonna, Christina Aguilera, 2003
In a modern-day rendition of "Like a Virgin," Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera recreated the famous performance nine years later, with a surprise appearance from Madonna herself. She joined the duo on stage and famously locked lips with each.
11. Rihanna, 2007
Rihanna risked bodily injury to strut the red carpet in some serious stilettos. "I do have heels on, but I'm trying not to put my weight on one foot," said the R&B star, who refused to let a broken toe stop her from showing off a fuchsia satin Armani Privé gown-and picking up two of the night's biggest awards: Video of the Year and Monster Single of the Year.
12. Beyonce, 2009
Beyonce (and her two backup dancers) recreated her famous "Single Ladies" dance for the VMAs, trading in her black leotard for an amazing silver applique bodysuit with a fierce metallic Lorraine Schwartz glove.
13. Kanye West and Taylor Swift, 2009
Even though Kanye West crashed Taylor Swift's acceptance speech when she won the Best Female Video award, she still outshone all in a sequined one-shoulder Kaufmanfranco creation.
14. Lady Gaga, 2010
Lady Gaga credited her jaw-droppingly raw VMA ensemble with a deeper political meaning. "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," the singer said on Ellen. "And I am not a piece of meat."
15. Beyonce, 2011
Now that's an announcement! A radiant Beyonce confirmed her pregnancy on the red carpet, cradling her burgeoning bump in a one-shoulder persimmon Lanvin gown. Later that night, the expectant star performed "Love On Top" and ended the song by throwing open her sequined tuxedo blazer to reveal her bump.
16. Nicki Minaj, 2011
Famous for her eccentric, out-there style, Nicki Minaj was up to her usual antics on the red carpet in a hodgepodge of cartoon-printed pieces, complete with an intricate bubblegum pink-and-yellow braided 'do.
17. Miley Cyrus, 2013
The singer dropped jaws from the get-go, when she stepped out of a larger-than-life size teddy bear in a bear-inspired one-piece to perform "We Can't Stop." And then stripped down into a nude latex two-piece to sing (and twerk) "Blurred Lines" with Robin Thicke.