We all know by now that the MTV Video Music Awards is unlike any award show. Whereas you know what you’re getting at all the others: class and glamour (Oscars), lovable fashion (Golden Globes and Emmys), polished fun (Grammys), it’s clear that the VMAs fits into a category all its own—straight-up outrageous. Almost every publication, including ours, has a list of the craziest getups to ever hit the VMA scene.
That’s exactly why the VMA red carpet is worth watching year after year. More than ever, music artists carefully craft their images and identities through their wardrobe choices. There are few opportunities left to have a platform to let loose and, well, let the freak flags fly. Yet, this has been the point of the VMAs since it started in 1984—not to make fashion statements, but to make lasting pop culture.
The '90s kick-started this era. This is way before the internet, social media, and trolls. In 1998, Gwen Stefani showed up in powder blue pigtails and a matching furry bikini top (above, right), only to be outdone by Rose McGowan (below), who walked the red carpet in her nearly nude black string dress. The following year, Lil' Kim wore a single purple pastie with her one-shoulder jumpsuit (above, left), much to the delight of an inquisitive Diana Ross.
The aughts saw this bar and raised it. Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake walked with head-to-toe matching denim looks (2001), Christina Aguilera (below) very publicly went through her "Dirrty" phase (2002), Fergie did whatever the hell she wanted, like roll in wearing a plaid naughty-schoolgirl outfit, at the height of Black Eyed Peas' success (2006), and Katy Perry emerged as a pin-up girl before she became the megastar that she is today (2008).
Lady Gaga ushered us in to the next decade with her epic appearance in 2010, most notably accepting Video of the Year for "Bad Romance" wearing a dress made entirely of meat. There was no slowing down after that: Nicki Minaj debuted as a raver complete with a face mask and ice cream cone necklace in 2011 (below), the same year Beyoncé announced her pregnancy in an orange Lanvin gown. In 2012, the red carpet was overall chill, which made for a pretty forgetful show. Thankfully, Miley Cyrus revived the VMA outrageousness for 2013, when she twerked on stage in nude spandex to the gasps of an entire country. Last year, Minaj performed "Bang Bang" alongside Jessie J and Ariana Grande, with a wardrobe malfunction that may or may not have been on purpose. Yet, it's that exact idea—that a popped dress could be potentially be staged for an appearance—that would only happen at the VMAs.
Hence, a red carpet like the VMAs is a rare find. You never know who will emerge as the most shocking of the night until the show's completely over. Sunday's event is likely to be filled with worthwhile fashion moments. We have a few things to look forward to already. Minaj is very perturbed that "Anaconda" didn't get a Video of the Year nomination, so what will she wear to make a statement? FKA Twigs, perhaps the most exciting person to watch in terms of how she pushes the limits of her fashion, is going to get screen time for her Best New Artist nod. How will she dress to introduce herself to the vast MTV audience? Beyoncé is nominated twice, but has played the red carpet safe since her matchy-matchy Destiny's Child days. Will Sunday be different? Will Sia arrive with her wig? WWRD (What Will Rihanna Do)?
Most notably, what will Miley Cyrus wear to make a lasting impression as host? Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott redesigned the Moonman, so we're predicting he'll have an involved role in her wardrobe as well, given they're already close friends. However, she's appeared in promos for the show nearly naked so far—is it a hint of what's to come?
In any case, it's clear that the VMAs is where people go to create lasting moments, for better or for worse. We suggest you don’t miss it.
The 2015 MTV Video Music Awards will air live on MTV Sunday, August 30. Tune in at 8 p.m. EST for the VMA pre-show. The actual awards ceremony will start at 9 p.m. EST. Follow InStyle online and on social media for up-to-the-minute updates.