Dove Cameron Says Her "Masculine Meets Feminine" VMAs Outfits Speak to Her True Self and Aesthetic

"I was doing a lot of performative femininity when I was younger that was very trapping and very diminishing," she tells InStyle, exclusively, when speaking about her style.

Dove Cameron VMAs 2022
Photo: Nicole Fara Silver

Time is of the essence, and Dove Cameron is committed to making every second count.

"If you had told me that this year I would be nominated and presenting and performing at the [VMAs] pre-show, I would have said 'Uh, do you understand how time works? Because that's not possible,'" the performer tells InStyle over Zoom.

Cameron's excitement is palpable through my computer speakers; so much so that I catch myself wishing I could bottle even a fraction of it up and save it for a rainy day. It's been an eventful year for the Best New Artist of 2022. In March, the singer released her single "Boyfriend," a sultry queer anthem that would secure the No.42 spot on Billboard's Hot 100 (and, not to mention, go viral on TikTok). She was a guest judge on VH1's Rupaul's Drag Race and most recently dropped the politically inspired music video for her song "Breakfast."

Dove Cameron VMAs 2022
Nicole Fara Silver

Cameron has also fully embraced her identity as a queer woman since coming out in 2020, and that's something she hopes has translated through her fashion choices, specifically the two looks she wore on the VMA stage and red carpet this year.

"It's always been a huge part of my true expression to be super masculine meets feminine," the lyricist says of her aesthetic. "I definitely love androgyny that I didn't let myself explore before. I was doing a lot of performative femininity when I was younger that was very trapping and very diminishing."

Dove Cameron VMAs 2022
Nicole Fara Silver

Cameron admits that, in years past, she made a conscious effort not to take up space on the red carpet.

"If you look at pictures of me from when I was younger when I was on red carpets, there's like no one home behind the eyes. It's very pained, very much like I'm just trying to be the smallest, happiest, sweetest, most uneventful person there."

But not this year.

Dove Cameron VMAs 2022
Nicole Fara Silver

No, this year, the only performance Cameron put on this year was her VMA pre-show concert. "I'm hoping to have this be sort of a starting point for me expressing myself as the artist that I feel that I am now," says the artist. In order to do just that, Cameron says she asked herself questions like, "What makes me feel like me? What makes me feel my most expressed? What makes me feel my most excited?" The answer: Challenging traditional gender norms and combining masculine and feminine energies.

"[For the carpet] we were thinking about cutting cuffs from suits and wearing them as bracelets, or the collar from a suit and wearing it as a necklace," Cameron says, describing the collaborative vision that she her and her stylist, Marta Del Rio, had discussed prior to nailing down her look. "I'm definitely going to have super slicked back hair and work with my favorite nail artist, Juan [Alvear], to do these long, alien claws. They always look good around the microphone, and they make me feel like the creature that I am."

Dove Cameron VMAs 2022
Getty Images

Cameron would go on to walk the carpet in a Paco Rabanne floral maxi dress, with leather belt detailing at her bust, torso, and back. She accessorized with a buckled belt choker (clearly keeping with the bondage theme), peep-toe black heels, as well as delicate silver-toned rings and earrings.

As for what she wore on stage, the 26-year-old said she would be channeling the same "big d*ck energy" that she intended to emit in the "Breakfast" music video, paying homage to the power of women who deserve the same rights as their male counterparts.

Dove Cameron VMAs 2022
Nicole Fara Silver
Dove Cameron VMAs 2022
Nicole Fara Silver

"We're in an era, especially now, where I think it's important to make a political statement everywhere you go. I'm hoping to make a statement in support of women's issues these days and being pro-choice and pro-abortion, and just showing solidarity."

Dove Cameron VMAs 2022
Nicole Fara Silver

Cameron wore a metallic bra top, flowy black trousers, an oversized suit jacket with dramatically padded shoulders, and extra long sleeves — details, she tells InStyle, that make her "feel powerful."

Dove Cameron VMAs 2022
Nicole Fara Silver

"When I was younger, I used to dress up as like, the male villains and go to school. I would Sharpie my face like Jack Skeleton or I would take off the little plastic fork tips and tape them around my nails like Wolverine. I used to do my face like the Joker. I just always had this villain thing that I really loved. I love the feeling of lengthening clothing that I can move in because it feels like dark water. The emotion feels powerful. It's not about being tall to be beautiful; it's about being tall to be scary."

Dove Cameron VMAs 2022
Nicole Fara Silver
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